Supercollider

February 26th, 2013

Ending all too soon is Kent Fine Art’s radiant mini-retrospective of Paul Laffoley and his “Boston Visionary Cell, Inc.”  Laffoley is an artist, inventor and partially Harvard-trained architect who most notably designed the middle section of WTC2.  In 1971, he founded the Boston Visionary Cell, Inc, through which he produced research, writing, and awesome paintings.  Charts, graphs, schematics, and mandalas characterize his sizzling canvases.   They are visual dynamos that whirl, parse, splice and fuse ideas, like conceptual supercolliders.  Laffoley’s exotic, ambitious, and eclectic metaphysical machines are tamed by highly legible textual notes printed with banal vinyl decal letters that remind us of user manuals.  Additionally, the bottom of many of the paintings exhibited here bear the names of scholars and writers relevant to the topics in question, just like names, purposes, or virtues you might find reverently etched above the columns of a neoclassical library or federal building.

Paul Laffoley, "Solitron," 1997

Sustaining Laffoley’s research and supporting his theories are what appear to be analogical relations among cosmology, religion, the nervous system, language, quantum mechanics, sacred geometry, and creation myths. Hence, his diagrammatic paintings are often symmetrical or concentric. Laffoley has wide-ranging interests, but his loftiest goal is to enable time travel. He believes that time travel is ultimately possible as a function of cognitive perception – a state of mind.

Noting Laffoley’s affinity for illustration and science-fiction, along with his appeal to tabloid television (one compromising example is in the show), a viewer could view this densely installed show as kitsch esoterica.  A more committed viewer would take the time to ponder Laffoley’s defiantly extra-disciplinary invocations. Are they plausible, and does that matter?  Can they integrate with contemporary thinking, for example gender theory?  Can they fulfill a role beyond the vacuous, nihilistic marketplace?

Paul Laffoley, "Alchemy: The Telnomic Process of the Universe," 1973

Laffoley seems prepared to use art to address the rapid technological changes of the 20th and 21st centuries, while trying to situate semi-recent technology within the long history of human knowledge and consciousness. And if some of his selections from the Great Luminous Dustbin seem outlandish, arcane, or even primitive, consider that our present capabilities will seem similarly primitive within our lifetimes.

But this show isn’t just about Laffoley’s topics. It’s about him. So it brings up other questions. Through what degree of obsession does one accumulate so much knowledge? And why shouldn’t an artist make work that displays everything he knows?

More on Laffoley here:

http://technoccult.net/dossiers/people/paul-laffoley/

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