Alfonso Ossorio: From Painting to Assemblage

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Philippine-born Alfonso Ossorio emerged as a prominent figure among a group of artists working in New York including Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman. Over the years, Ossorio’s studio and home in East Hampton, New York became a central hub for the art scene. The Hamptons also provided the artist access to an immense range of natural materials from seashells to deer antlers, found objects that would become the foundation of his iconic assemblages referred to as congregations.  

Alfonso Ossorio: Works From The Foundation
1 May - 9 June | New York

Alfonso Ossorio: From Painting to Assemblage

  • Alfonso Ossorio, Persistence, 1950
    Formerly titled, Nevertheless, this rare oil and enamel painting was featured in the important survey exhibition of Ossorio’s work at the Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton in 1980. On the occasion of the exhibition, Ossorio spoke with Judith Wolf, Guild Hall curator, at his studio in East Hampton. In his discussion with the Ms. Wolf he examines this painting, describing the significance of its imagery as, “simply two very dense, extremely primordial figures who nevertheless are expressing a certain emotion towards each other and are producing between them an embryotic offspring, a little oval figure that is part of them.” Ossorio goes on in the interview published in the 1980 exhibition catalogue to explain that the painting examines the , “indomitability of the deep instinct of life continuing, in spite of the drawbacks of the comparatively low level at which they exist, or the many difficulties as the higher level. Whatever exists wants to reproduce itself.”

  • Alfonso Ossorio, Untitled, circa 1950–51
    Works in the exhibition such as Untitled are prime examples of Ossorio’s unique wax-resist technique of the early 1950s. This intensive process in Ossorio’s output consists of the use of wax in combination with watercolor or ink on paper. A layer of wax is applied to the paper, Ossorio would often rub a candlestick to the paper’s surface, which then resists any water based media that is painted on top of it, causing the watercolor or ink to run as it attempts to adhere to the paper, organically informing the composition. Ossorio cites Surrealist painter and sculptor Victor Brauner as an influence in his initial exploration of this painting process which Ossorio was able to develop into his own. 

  • Alfonso Ossorio, Golden Child, 1950
    In 1950, Ossorio returned to the Philippines for the first time in almost twenty-five years since his childhood to paint a mural at the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker. It was during this trip that Ossorio created Golden Child and other effusive paintings with his own distinct iconography, rich colors and familial symbols. The ink, watercolor and wax works on paper created during Ossorio’s return to the Philippines in 1950 form his iconic series of Victoria Paintings of which Golden Child is a quintessential example with its anthropomorphic brushstrokes and lush reds and greens.

  • Alfonso Ossorio, The Garden, 1953
    In 1951, at the suggestion of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Ossorio acquired the historic estate known as the Creeks in East Hampton, establishing a permanent studio and home on the east end of Long Island. The geography of the property surrounding Ossorio’s studio is translated to oil on canvas in his 1953 painting, The Garden. At the time The Garden was painted, Ossorio had been living and working in East Hampton for several years, immersed in the region’s flora and natural habitat. The bucolic landscape of the Creeks, comprised of over 50 acres of forest and gardens along Georgica Pond, echoes in the abstract composition of this painting.

  • Alfonso Ossorio, Untitled, circa 1956
    In 1952, Clyfford Still was introduced by Pollock to Ossorio. In the following summers of 1953 and 1955, Still lived and worked on the grounds of Ossorio’s home in East Hampton, painting in a large barn. Like Still, Ossorio was inspired by the natural environment. The influence of Ossorio’s setting comes through in his Untitled, 1956, a large format painting that bares commonalities in imagery, dimension and a fascination with the landscape to some of Still’s abstract oils of the same period.

  • Alfonso Ossorio, Mother and Child, 1972
    In the interview published for Ossorio’s 1980 exhibition at the Guild Hall Museum, Ossorio goes on to discuss the process behind his sculptural assemblages, identifying the significance behind the mixed media components of this particular work, “that broken picture frame is part of the business of breaking an old frame, which then still exists. The fragments of the old tradition still surround us and float happily throughout day-to-day life, and not necessarily detrimentally…in Mother and Child, the mother is much more anthropomorphic than the poor little child. So perhaps evolutions is going backward?”

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