Paul Laffoley, whose annotated diagrammatic paintings with their kaleidoscopic representations of abstruse philosophic systems made him one of the most distinctive and cerebral of the outsider artists, died on Nov. 16 at his home in Boston. He was 80.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said Douglas Walla, his dealer at Kent Fine Art in Manhattan.
Laffoley, an architect by training, translated his ideas about time travel, other dimensions, astrology and alien life-forms onto square canvases that he illustrated, in brilliant colors, with precisely rendered spirals, pinwheels, eyes and architectural forms, annotated around the borders with text in vinyl press-on letters.
Many of the works incorporate mandalas. Others look like floor plans for the future, or cosmic board games. Their texts often pay homage to the thinkers behind the work, their names simply strung together in a row. Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin recurs frequently, along with Goethe, Blake and Jung.
Laffoley drew from myriad sources. He claimed that he had seen the film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” 873 times.
In many paintings, the margins are given over to gnomic aphorisms. Along the bottom of “The Visionary Point” (1970), a painting with an eyelike form emitting spiky beams of yellow light, Laffoley applied these words: “Time moving forward meets time moving backward at the visionary point which precedes the world mystical experience, the Omega Point.”
Laffoley thought of his “architectonic thought forms” as portals allowing the viewer to enter, transcend time and space, and achieve an expanded state of consciousness.
Linda Dalrymple Henderson, an art historian at the University of Texas at Austin, called Laffoley “a model for a younger generation of artists interested in the occult and visionary experiences” in an interview with the Boston Globe in 2007. “He’s been treated as an outsider,” she added, “but he may turn out to be the ultimate insider.”
After the Austin Museum of Art organized a traveling survey of his career in 1999, Laffoley became something of a cult figure for curators around the world. The Palais de Tokyo in Paris devoted an entire room to his work in its 2009 exhibition “Chasing Napoleon,” and several of his works were included in “The Alternative Guide to the Universe” at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2013.
A monograph, “The Essential Paul Laffoley,” by Walla, is scheduled to be published by the University of Chicago Press in March.
John E. Zuccotti, a street-smart urbanist who was an unsung hero of New York City’s fiscal crisis in the 1970s, died Thursday in Brooklyn. He was 78.
The cause was complications from a heart attack, said his wife, Susan.
Zuccotti was perhaps best known in recent years for the half-acre park in Lower Manhattan that was named after him, where Occupy Wall Street protesters encamped in 2011. His colleagues at Brookfield Asset Management, a $200 billion real estate investment firm, where he was chairman of global operations, had dedicated the park in his name five years earlier.
As a public servant — chairman of the City Planning Commission and first deputy mayor — Zuccotti played a firm if self-effacing role in the emergency efforts to spare the city from bankruptcy and preserve the democratic process that had elected his vulnerable boss, Abraham D. Beame, as mayor.
“Beame was a nice man, but John was the one who could deal with the banks, the unions,” Ira Millstein, who was another architect of the city’s fiscal recovery, said in an interview Friday. “His word was as good as his bond. Without that, the city would have collapsed.”
Tom Buckley, a versatile reporter for the New York Times who covered the United Nations and the war in Vietnam, wrote columns about New York City and articles for the Sunday magazine, and as a television critic panned “Hill Street Blues,” died Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.
The cause was lung cancer, said his sister, Faith Rose.
Buckley had worked at the Times since 1953, starting as a copy boy, and was named U.N. correspondent in 1962. He worked in the Times’ Saigon bureau from late 1966 to June 1968, covering the Tet Offensive and writing analyses of U.S. military strategy; a profile from the carrier Constellation of Rear Adm. Ralph Wynne Cousins, commander of U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin; and an account of emergency surgery on a wounded soldier.
He later returned to Vietnam as a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine.
A brash personality both in the newsroom and on the page, Buckley wrote colorfully and sometimes controversially. In a 1970 profile of Whitney Young, the head of the National Urban League, he wrote about Young’s seeming ease in working with the white establishment and the suspicion with which some black leaders viewed him as a result.
“Young is frequently derogated as Uncle Whitney or Whitey Young or ‘an Oreo cookie,’ ” Buckley wrote, a line that was the cue for the article’s headline: Whitney Young: Black Leader or ‘Oreo Cookie’? The article provoked an immediate backlash.
Buckley also wrote for the New Yorker, Esquire and other magazines.