Paul Laffoley

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Paul Laffoley
Paul Laffoley in his studio, January 2015.jpg
Paul Laffoley in his studio, January 2015
Born August 14, 1940
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Movement visionary art

Paul Laffoley (born August 14, 1940) ) is an American visionary artist and architect from Boston, Massachusetts.


Following his formal education in the classics at Brown and architectural studies at Harvard, Laffoley came to New York in 1963 to work with the visionary artist and architect Frederick Kiesler, and was also recruited to view late-night TV for Andy Warhol. He also found work with the architectural firm Emery Roth & Sons, where he worked on the World Trade Center towers.[1] During this period he commuted between New York and Cambridge, where he painted in the basement of his family’s home in Belmont, completing in 1965 the piece The Kali-Yuga: The End of the Universe at 424826 A.D. (The Cosmos Falls into the Chaos as the Shakti Oroboros Leads to the Elimination of all Value Systems by Spectrum Analysis).

As a painter, his work is usually classified as visionary art or outsider art. Most of Laffoley's pieces are painted on large canvases and combine words and imagery to depict a spiritual architecture of explanation, tackling concepts like dimensionality, time travel through hacking relativity, connecting conceptual threads shared by philosophers through the millennia, and theories about the cosmic origins of mankind.[2][3][4]

From an early age, Laffoley manifested an obsessive interest in UFO's. He has seen the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still 873 times. He explains that his obsessive interest in the film derives partly from a fascination with the architecture of the space ship in the film which, early on in his life, was subconscious. He made a vow to become an architect so that he could design flying saucers when he was still a child, though he did not become a registered architect until he was 50 years of age. "Two years later, in preparation for a major oral surgery, I was subjected to a routine cat-scan of my head. As a result, a miniature metallic-like "implant" was discovered in my brain near the pineal gland. A local chapter of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) declared it to be a 'nanotechnological laboratory' capable of accelerating or retarding my brain activity. I have come to believe that the implant is extraterrestrial in origin and is the main motivation of my ideas and theories."[5]


Paul Laffoley was born on August 14, 1940 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to an Irish Catholic family. His father, Paul Laffoley, Sr., the president of the Cambridge Trust Company, was also a lawyer and taught classes at Harvard Business School. Early in life, Laffoley, Sr. also did on-stage performances as a medium.

According to Laffoley, he attended the progressive Mary Lee Burbank School in Belmont, Massachusetts, where his draftsman's talent was ridiculed by his abstract expressionist teachers. After attending Boston public schools for a short time, Laffoley matriculated at Brown University, graduating in 1962 with honors in Classics, Philosophy, and Art History.[6] Laffoley has written that, while at Brown for his undergrad in 1961, he was given eight electroshock treatments after the termination of "about a year of weekly sessions with a psychiatrist, who had treated me for a mild state of catatonia."[7]

In 1963, he attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and apprenticed with the sculptor Mirko Basaldella before being dismissed from the institution. In a search for expanded opportunities, Laffoley came to New York to work with the visionary Frederick Kiesler, and was recruited by Andy Warhol, who wanted someone to watch television for him at all hours of the night. Laffoley watched television in the pre-dawn hours, before programming had actually begun.

By the late 1980s, Laffoley began to move from the spiritual and the intellectual, and evolved to the view of his work as an interactive, physically engaging psychotronic device, perhaps similar to architectural monuments such as Stonehenge or the Cathedral of Notre Dame and their spiritual aura. As a confirmed “utopian”, Laffoley is a prominent visionary artist.

After the destruction of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, Laffoley was one of a number of architects who, in 2002, submitted designs for the competition to plan the Freedom Tower. Laffoley took his inspiration from the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. His conception was to plan a gigantic hotel in the style of Gaudí's Sagrada Família church in Barcelona.[8][9]

Other significant survey exhibitions featuring Laffoley's work include the Palais de Tokyo (2009),[10] and most recently Secret Universe II: Paul Laffoley curated by Claudia Dichter and Udo Kittleman for the Hamburger Bahnhoff in Berlin.[11]


As of 2010, Laffoley claims to have executed over 250 works currently being documented in an upcoming catalogue raisonne by Douglas Walla. The archive will include thoughtforms for each work where available as composed by the artist. Laffoley has called his work a blend of the purely rational, Apollonian impulse and the purely emotional, Dionysian impulse.

British writer Michael Bracewell, in his collection of essays, when surface was depth, has made some particularly eloquent observations about his work, such as: "If Laffoley's work within the Boston Visionary Cell can be said to have one principal preoccupation - a common denominator of his eclectic scholarship and practice - then that preoccupation would be to understand the process by which one goes from becoming to being."

Bracewell has also written that, "The Boston Visionary Cell, as a concretized manifestation of its inhabitant's work and preoccupations, describes the way in which a chaos of data - no less than a chaos of marble - can be sculpted by research to release the perfect forms within it."[12]

He works in many types of media, including oil, acrylic, silkscreen, and pen and ink, and include both images and text. Lately he has concentrated on large paintings with sculptural and mixed media elements.

Paul Laffoley is represented by Kent Fine Art in New York [13] and a comprehensive catalogue of his work is now underway by the University of Chicago Press.


  • Chasing Napoleon. Paris: Palais de Tokyo, 2009
  • Architectonic Thought-Forms: Gedankenexperiemente in Zombe Aesthetics. A Survey of the Visionary Art of Paul Laffoley. Texas: Austin Museum of Art, 1999
  • Paul Laffoley: Secret Universe. Berlin: Hamburger Bahnhoff, 2012
  • The Alternative Guide to the Universe. London: Hayward Gallery, 2013.
  • Paul Laffoley: The Boston Visionary Cell. New York: Kent Fine Art, 2013 [14]
  • Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauharoque. Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, 2013 [15]

Major works[edit]

  • The Cosmos Falls into the Chaos as Shakti Urborosi: The Elimination of Value Systems by Spectrum Analysis (1965)
  • I, Robur, Master of the World (1968)[16]
  • Utopia: The Suspension between the Possible and the Impossible (1973)
  • Get Thee Behind Me, Satan (1974–1983)
  • Temporality: The Great Within of the Universe (1974)
  • Black-White Hole: the Force of the History of the Universe to Produce Total Non-Existence(1976)
  • "Cosmolux" (1981)
  • The Orgone Motor (1982)
  • Color Breathing (1983)
  • Thanaton III: Extraterrestrial Communication Portal (1989)
  • Geochronmechane: The Time Machine from the Earth (1990)
  • It Came From Beneath Space: Lucid Dream Number 52 (1991)
  • The Alchemy of Breathing (1992)
  • Dimensionality: The Manifestation of Fate (1999)[17]
  • The Fetal Dream of Life into Death (2001–02)
  • After Gaudi: A Grand Hotel for New York City (2002)
  • Pickman's Mephitic Models (2004)
  • The Physically Alive Structured Environment: The Bauharoque (2004)
  • Cosmogenesis To Christogenesis (2005)

Books and monographs[edit]

  • Laffoley, Paul, and Jeanne M. Wasilik. "The Phenomenology of Revelation". New York: Kent Fine Art, 1989. ISBN 978-1878607058
  • Laffoley, P. (1999). Architectonic Thought Forms: a Survey of the Art of Paul Laffoley 1967-1999. Austin, TX: Austin Museum of Fine Art.
  • Paul Laffoley: Secret Universe. Walther König, Köln, 2012. ISBN 978-3863350888 (catalog)
  • Croquer, Luis. (2013) "Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauharoque". Seattle: Henry Art Gallery. ISBN 978-0-935558-52-4


  • The Viking Youth Power Hour interview Paul at the Esozone, August 11, 2007 [18]
  • 2007 Feb 12th. 3 hour interview on Mike Hagan's "RadiOrbit" show. Very broad range of topics covered including Laffoley's early life, working on the World Trade Center in the 1970s, developing his time travel theories, the Raelians, Buckminster Fuller, nanotechnology, living architecture and 2012. Link to archived MP3 stream of full 3 hour interview:[19]
  • 2001 Thanaton III produced for Channel 4. (original broadcast January 28, 2001. Interviewed by Richard Metzger)
  • 1999 Online Network interview with Richard Metzger of The Disinformation Company
  • 1998 The Mystery of Genius (two part series) for the Arts & Entertainment Channel produced by Robert Fiveson. (broadcast in 1999). interviewed by John Metherell
  • 1997 Paul Laffoley on the Time Machine, Strange Universe (original broadcast September 10, 1997). interviewed by Alisyn Camerota
  • Kossy, Donna. "Paul Laffoley: Third Generation Lunatic Fringe" in Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief, Los Angeles: Feral House, 2001 (2nd ed. exp. from 1994), ISBN 978-0-922915-67-5 (interview reprinted from Kooks Magazine, No. 6, 1990, p. 20–28)


  • Johnson, Ken. 1989. "Paul Laffoley at Kent Fine Art, New York". Art in America. 173-174. [20]
  • Peetz, John Arthur. "Paul Laffoley: Kent Fine Art". Artforum. (January 2013). [21]


  1. ^ Presenter: Mike Hagan. "Paul Laffoley WTC". radiOrbit. New Wave Corporation. KOPN.
  2. ^ Outsider Art Sourcebook. New York, NY: Raw Vision. March 2009. ISBN 978-0954339326. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Ken (17 January 2013). "The Boston Visionary Cell". New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Ken (April 6, 2001). "ART IN REVIEW: Paul Laffoley, 'Portaling'". New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Laffoley, Paul (2000). "Disco Volante" from the UFO Show. Normal, IL: University Galleries, Illinois State University. pp. 34, 36, 24–27. ISBN 0-945558-30-9. 
  6. ^ "Paul Laffoley Bio". Kent Fine Arts LLC. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Lafolley, Paul (1989). "The Dream As The Initiation" from The Phenomenology of Revelation. New York, NY: Kent Fine Arts. p. 15. ISBN 1878607057. 
  8. ^ Collins, Glenn (January 21, 2003). "Postmodern, In a Manner Of Speaking; A Shape Out of 1908 Is Offered Downtown". New York Times. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Larroque, Jean-Pierre. "The Mad One". Doublethink Productions. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "Chasing Napoleon". e-flux. 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  11. ^ "Paul Laffoley: Secret Universe 2: Claudia Dichter, Udo Kittelmann, Paul Laffoley: 9783863350888: Books". Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  12. ^ Bracewell, Michael (July 9, 2002). when surface was depth. London: Da Capo Press. pp. 346–353. ISBN 0306811308. 
  13. ^ Paul Laffoley Artist Page
  14. ^ Paul Laffoley: The Boston Visionary Cell. New York: Kent Fine Art, 2013
  15. ^ Paul Laffoley at the Henry Art Gallery April 6 - September 29, 2013
  16. ^ Laffoley, Paul (1999) [1968]. "I, Robur, Master of the World" from Architectonic Thought-Forms. Austin, TX: Austin Museum of Art. pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-9670952-1-2.  Paul Laffoley: "As we approach the twenty-first century, problems of managing the world seem to be emerging faster than we are able to solve them. Driven close to despair and distraction, architects and other designers of the environment have become either bricoleurs, frantically trying to patch our reality as it comes apart at the seams, or prophets of doom traumatized by their own foreboding. As inall problem solving, the solution lies first in determining the next higher context of the elements involved, and second, in assessing the new possibilities that then appear. In the case of the earth, the next design context is the solar system, specifically our nearest neighbor both physically and mythologically--the moon. Therefore I propose an earth moon link-up through an open space to form a simple but gigantic motor."
  17. ^ Laffoley, Paul. "Dimensionality: The Manifestation of Fate". Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ file:///Users/douglaswalla/Downloads/11_laffoley_nytimes.pdf
  21. ^ file:///Users/douglaswalla/Downloads/13_laffoley_artforum.pdf

External links[edit]