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Alfonso Ossorio

 (1916 - 1990)
Alfonso A. Ossorio was active/lived in New York / Philippines.  Alfonso Ossorio is known for surreal view, assemblages, mural, paintings, sculptor, collage and assemblage.

Alfonso Ossorio

Biography from the Archives of askART

Alfonso Ossorio in his painting showed his predilection for the art brut ("raw art") of the insane, criminals and children espoused by Jean Dubuffet who was a major influence on Ossorio from the age of thirty-three. For him, like many of his contemporaries, rational society, traditional art and existence failed to have meaning, which he sought in the darker avenues of the human spirit and the spontaneous, unpremeditated creations of innocence. Ossorio was also influenced by his friend Jackson Pollock, as well as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

Ossorio, the son of a wealthy sugar planter, was born in Manila, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines in 1916, becoming an American citizen in 1939. Educated in England and the United States, he studied at Harvard and the Rhode Island School of Design.

Ossorio eventually moved from painting to sculptural assemblage or junk art, utilizing a wide variety of objects including toys, broken glass, skeletons and glass eyes. He called this gathering of objects "congregations."

After the Second World War and his experiences in the medical corps, understandably resulting in morbid imagery, he began a study of religious iconography, which figured, in 1950, in a mural for the Church of St. Joseph in the Philippines.

In 1951, he purchased an estate on Long Island where he redirected much of his artistic energy to the creation of a sculpture and botanical garden.

Alfonso Ossorio died in 1990.

His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York University and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Rose Art Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford Connecticut; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from the Archives of askART
Alfonso Ossorio was born in Manila in the Philippines on August 2, 1916. He moved to the United States at the age of fourteen, studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, graduated from Harvard University and served in the United States Army. His style constantly evolved throughout his career. He went on to paint intricately rendered allegories that showed the influence of Albrecht Durer. In 1949 he became friends with Jackson Pollock, who urged him to visit Jean Dubuffet in Paris. It is Dubuffet whose presence is strongest in Ossorio's work.

Ossorio was briefly married in the early 1940s, a marriage that was grotesquely portrayed in some of his surrealist works. He also was strongly influenced by the work of Paul Cadmus and Jared French. He died in 1990.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Art in America, July 1992
From the internet,
Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers, 1986-87

Biography from David Findlay Jr. Gallery
Selected Museum Collections

Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria
Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AK
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila University, Manila, The Philippines
Boymans-Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, Holland
The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC
Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY
Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, HI
L'Art Brut Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Munich Modern Art, Munich, Germany
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan
The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT


1916 August 2, born in Manila on the island of Luzon, The Philippines to Maria Paz Yangco and Miguel José Ossorio, the fourth of six boys.
1924-29 Travels with his mother and two younger brothers, Frederic and Robert, to England. Attends Prior Park Christian Bros. School in Bath, England then St. Richard's School, Malvern, Worcestershire, England.
1930-34 Attends Portsmouth Priory, Providence, RI.
1933 Naturalized as an American citizen.
1934 First wood engravings published for W.W. Appleton's Dark Journey and Other Verses (Cambridge, MA).
1934-39 Studies with Wilhelm Koehler and Edward Waldo Forbes at Harvard University. Completes thesis titled, Spiritual Influences on the Visual Image of Christ and receives Bachelor of Arts degree. Meets Ananda Coomaraswamy, Eric Gill, Graham Carey, Philip Hofer, Lincoln Kirstein, Jared French, Paul Cadmus and George Platt Lynes. Summers at Guild of St. Dominic, the workshop of wood engraver Eric Gill in Sussex, England.
1936 First original work published in Poems and Wood Engravings. Collects and catalogues works by Thomas Derrick, Eric Gill, Philip Hagreen, David Jones and Denis Tegetmeier. The Fogg Museum at Harvard University exhibits Ossorio's collection of art.
1937 Illustrates covers for 1937 editions of New Directions and Les Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud. Photographed by George Platt Lynes.
1938-39 Studies and learns egg tempera technique at Rhode Island School of Design with John Howard Benson and Eugene Kingman.
1939 Spends the winter in Boston. Commissioned by the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manhattan to depict the Twelve Apostles for their main sanctuary. Begins surrealist works.
1940 Marries Bridget Hubrecht. Couple lives in Taos, NM on Frieda Lawrence's ranch.
1941 Meets Betty Parsons in Taos. First solo exhibition at the Wakefield Gallery, New York, NY, where Betty Parsons is the Director. Divorces Bridget Hubrecht.
1943 Second solo exhibition at the Wakefield Gallery, New York, NY. Inducted into the army.
1944 In the U.S. Army at Camp Ellis, IL, completes medical illustrations.
1945 Solo Exhibition at Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York, NY.
1946 Discharged from army and spends winter with brother Robert in Palm Springs, CA.
1948 Spends the winter in Manhattan at the Chelsea Hotel and completes a portrait of W.H. Auden. In the summer, meets dancer Ted Dragon at Jacob's Pillow, MA.
1949 Purchased first Jackson Pollock. Meets Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock and with Dragon spends first summer in East Hampton. In the Fall, travels to Paris to meet Jean and Lili Dubuffet.
1950 Spends ten months in Victorias, Negros Occidental, The Philippines completing a mural for the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker. Reads The Trauma of Birth: Search for the Beloved by Dr. Nandor Fodor. Completes many ink, wax and watercolor paintings on paper.
1951 Travels to Paris and meets frequently with Dubuffet. In April and May, Ossorio and Dragon stay with the Dubuffets on the lle du Levant, where Dubuffet writes the text for his monograph on Ossorio titled Peintures initiatiques d'Alfonso Ossorio. Dubuffet introduces Ossorio to Michel Tapié. Tapié organizes a solo exhibition in Paris at Studio Paul Facchetti of Ossorio's Victorias drawings. In August, Ossorio travels to East Hampton at the suggestion of Pollock to purchase "The Creeks"—the studio and home of painter/designers Albert and Adele Herter—then returns to Paris. In November, he returns to New York for an exhibition of the Victorias drawings at Betty Parsons Gallery. Writes the catalogue introduction for Jackson Pollock's black and white show at Betty Parsons Gallery. On December 20th, accompanies the Dubuffets to Chicago for Dubuffet's lecture Anticultural Positions at the Art Club of Chicago. Ossorio agrees with Dubuffet to house and exhibit the entire collection of Companie L'Art Brut at The Greeks
1952 In January, takes title to "The Creeks." Meets Clyfford Still and goes to Paris in mid-February, returning in April with many of Dubuffet's works. Prepares "The Creeks" to house the collection of L'Art Brut.
1953, 56 Solo exhibitions at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY.
1956-58 Organizes a series of exhibitions at Executive House, New York, NY with works by Willem deKooning, Jean Dubuffet, Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and David Smith among others.
1957-60 Co-founder of the Signa Gallery in East Hampton, NY with Elizabeth Parker and John Little.
1958, 59 Solo exhibitions at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York. Begins assemblage work.
1960, 61 Solo exhibitions at the Galerie Stadler, Paris.
1961 Solo exhibitions at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, Cordier & Warren Gallery, New York and Gallery Cordier-Stadler, Frankfurt, Germany. Participates in The Art of Assemblage, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
1962 Ossorio arranges an exhibition of the collection of L'Art Brut at the Cordier & Warren Gallery, New York before returning the collection to Dubuffet in Paris.
1963 First Solo exhibition of Cordier &Ekstrom Gallery, New York. Other solo exhibitions in 1965, 67, 68, 69, 72.
1964 Ossorio and Dragon summer in Greece and Turkey. Participates in Documenta III, Kassel, Germany.
1966 Participates in Contemporary American Sculpture, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.
1968 Participates in the traveling exhibition Dada, Surrealism, and their Heritage organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
1970 Ossorio starts first plantings of Arboretum at The Creeks
1972 Alfonso Ossorio written by B.H. Friedman published by Abrams.
1973 Garden Sculptures exhibited at Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY.
1974 Solo exhibitions at the Berkeley Center, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT and Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT.
1976 Participates in The Object as Poet, Renwick Gallery, National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC.
1977 Participates in 30 Years of American Art: 1945-1975, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
1980 Alfonso Ossorio 1940-1980, curated by Judith Wolfe at Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY. Interviewed by Forrest Selving for the Archives of American Art.
1982 Participates in The American's: The Collage, Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX.
1984 Publishes intaglio prints in the form of a book with poems by Dr. Lewis Thomas, entitled Could I Ask You Something? for The Library Fellows, Whitney Museum of American Art. Participates in Bioscapes, Oscarsson Hood Gallery, New York, NY, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA.

1984-90 Makes intaglio and monoprints with Hudson River Press.
1985 Participates in Action and Emotion - 50 Years of Painting Informal, Gutai, Cobra, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan.
1987 Participates in Twentieth-Century Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. Solo exhibition at Benton Gallery, Southampton, NY.
1988-89 Hospitalized for second heart failure and undergoes triple by-pass surgery. Completes drawings in hospital titled "Recovery Drawings".
1989-90 French collector Daniel Cordier donates nine Ossorio works from his private collection to Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; to this day, largest Museum collection of Ossorio's work. Participates in The Eloquent Object; The Evolution of American Art in Craft Media Since 1945, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan and National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan.
1990 December 5, dies at the age of 74 from a ruptured aneurysm.
1991 Alfonso Ossorio: The Victorias Drawings, 1950, Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center with a symposium featuring Paul Cummings, B.H. Friedman, Helen Harrison and Judith Wolfe. Alfonso Ossorio: A Legacy, Benton Gallery, Southampton, NY. Alfonso Ossorio: A Memorial Exhibition, Vanderwoude-Tananbaum Gallery, New York, NY.
1992 Alfonso Ossorio: Works from the 1960's, Zabriskie Gallery, New York, NY. Included in Lines & Myths: Abstraction in American Art, 1941-1951, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY and Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain, Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland and Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan.
1994 Ossorio Foundation opens in Southampton, NY. Included in Michel Tapié: Un Art Autre, Artcurial, Paris, France and The New York School, Baruch College, New York, NY.
1995 Ossorio Foundation receives confirmation of not-for-profit status. Recovery: The Hospital Drawings of Alfonso Ossorio with texts by B.H. Friedman, Rose Slivka and Lewis Thomas published by The Center for Book Arts.
1996 Reflection & Redemption: The 1940's Surrealist Works of Alfonso Ossorio, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY and Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC with catalogue essay by Ellen Landau. Included in Twentieth Anniversary of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors Fine Arts Program, Washington, DC.
1997 Congregations, The Parrish Art museum, Southampton, NY curated by Klaus Kertess with catalogue essays by Ellen Landau and Leslie Close. Alfonso Ossorio: The Shingle Figures, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY with catalogue essay by B.H. Friedman.
1998 Alfonso Ossorio: Master Prints, 1932-1990 organized by Ossorio Foundation, Southampton, NY. The Child Returns: Alfonso Ossorio, 1950-Philippines, Expressionist Paintings on Paper, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY with a catalogue essay by Francis V. O'Connor, PhD.
1999 Alfonso Ossorio: Costume Designs from the 1930s and 1940s for Ballet and Costume Designs on view at Ossorio Foundation, Southampton, NY. Included in Shaping a Generation: The Art and Artists of Betty Parsons, Heckscher Museum, Huntington, NY and L' Art Brut de la clandestinite a la consecration, Musee d'ethnographie, Geneva, Switzerland.
2000 Alfonso Ossorio: The Creeks, Before, During & After (Watercolors 1932-34 and Photographs 1990) at Ossorio Foundation, Southampton, NY. Included in From the Molecular to the Galactic: The Art of Max Ernst and Alfonso Ossorio, Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC and The Hamptons After Pollock, Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, NY.
2001 ROAD: Alfonso Ossorio's Response to Jackson Pollock's Death at Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, East Hampton, NY with a catalogue essay by B.H. Friedman. Synergy: Alfonso Ossorio & Jackson Pollock, 1950-1951 presented at Ossorio Foundation, Southampton, NY.
2002 Alfonso Ossorio: Horror Vacui - Filling the Void, A fifty Year Survey at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY and Ossorio Foundation, Southampton, NY with a catalogue essay by Helen Harrison. Alfonso Ossorio: The Dance: Ballet and Costume Designs, 1935-48 on view at Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS. Included in Transitions at Mid-Century, Works on Paper 1945-1955, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

Biography from Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
Alfonso Ossorio was born in Manila in the Philippines and was educated in Catholic boarding schools in England before coming to the United States in 1930 to continue his studies at Portsmouth Priory in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1933, he became an American citizen and a year later, matriculated at Harvard University, where he was exposed to primitive art at the Peabody Museum and met - among other artists - Jared French, George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus and engraver Eric Gill.

Three consecutive summers were spent at Gill's workshop, St. Dominic's Guild, in Sussex, England. Actively working by the early 1940s in the tradition of Surrealism, Ossorio had his first solo exhibition in 1941 at Betty Parsons's legendary Wakefield Gallery in New York City.

In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a medical illustrator. After his discharge from the army in 1946, he moved to New York City just as the Abstract Expressionist movement was beginning to emerge. In the late 1940s, as Ossorio began to explore abstraction, he formed vital relationships with Jackson Pollock and Jean Dubuffet and he began to collect their work.

In 1950, Ossorio returned to The Philippines for the first time since his childhood to execute a mural for the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker. After spending much of 1951 in Paris with Dubuffet, Ossorio purchased the East Hampton estate known as "The Creeks," which he cultivated into "the Eighth Wonder of the Horticultural World."

He remained in the Hamptons until his death in 1990, where he was a critical member of that avant-garde community that included among others Willem DeKooning, Lee Krasner and Pollock. From 1951 to 1962, The Creeks housed Dubuffet's extraordinary Art Brut collection, and it is no coincidence that in the early 1960s, Ossorio began to create his own visionary assemblages which he labeled "congregations."

In his congregations, Ossorio combined disparate found objects - glass eyes, shells, animal bones, shards, pearls, driftwood - in an attempt to synthesize beauty with decay, refinement with crudeness.

Internationally recognized for his complex and challenging visual language, Ossorio has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and publications.

His work is represented in museum collections throughout the world including Albertina Museum (Austria), Centre Georges Pompidou (France), L'Art Brut Museum (Switzerland), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, Museo National Centre de Arte Reina Sofia (Spain), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1995, the Ossorio Foundation was established in Southampton, New York to interpret and preserve the rich legacy of Alfonso Ossorio.

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is the exclusive representative of the Estate of Alfonso Ossorio and the Ossorio Foundation.

In 1994, the Ossorio Foundation was established by Edward F. Dragon to preserve the legacy of artist Alfonso Ossorio. The Ossorio Foundation, a not-for-profit organization located in Southampton, New York, has four primary objectives: to promote, educate, maintain and exhibit the collection of works created by Alfonso Ossorio. In addition to works created by Ossorio - works on paper, paintings, assemblages, prints, and photographs - the foundation maintains an extensive archive of photographic documentation on The Creeks and records of Ossorio's extraordinary art collection by other artists. In the foundation are also original correspondence with Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Philip Johnson, Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, Betty Parsons, Jackson Pollock and Clifford Still among others. For the last several years, the Ossorio Foundation in conjunction with Michael Rosenfeld Gallery has organized significant exhibitions, curated with material from its vast holdings. The exhibitions have been designed to investigate specific aspects of Ossorio's career, never before explored.

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Self-portrait: Balanced Head

About  Alfonso Ossorio

Born:  1916 - Manilla, Philippines
Died:   1990 - New York City
Known for:  surreal view, assemblages, mural, paintings, sculptor, collage and assemblage