Adolf Wölfli Der Zion-Wasser-Fall (The waterfall in Zion), 1914, pencil and colored pencil on newsprint, 39 1/2 x 28 1/4".

New York

Adolf Wölfli

American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square Columbus Avenue at 66th Street
February 25–May 18, 2003

There’s a requisite scene in monsters-from-outer-space movies in which frantic folks desperately trying to cope with the terrifying extraterrestrials suddenly confront the alien Big Mama, the ur-being ten times more frightening than her minions. Turn from the outsider-art fantasies of the Chicago recluse Henry Darger to those of the schizophrenic Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli (1864–1930) and there’s a similar exponential increase in weirdness—not to mention beauty, profundity, and just plain greatness. We’re talking twenty-five thousand pages of autobiography, prescriptions for a new world order, poetry, and songs. Then, of course, there are Wölfli’s inimitable drawings, which swirl and glow like illuminated manuscripts . . . from Mars.