â€śThe human being is the link between God and the material worldâ€¦ Even a little waste piece of plastic or a bone is just as much alive as the abstract concept of God, which is meaningless unless it is incarnated. â€¦[O]ne of the things I try to do is to infuse into the inanimate a reference back to the whole hierarchy of human experience beginning with the material, using objects instead of just paint.â€ť â€” Alfonso Ossorio, 1968 Oral history interview,Â Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
NEW YORK CITY | Â Â You must get to know this exquisitely out-of-the-box painter. Â His name is Alfonso Ossorio. Let me tell you why.
Born in Manila, the Philippines, and educated in Catholic boarding schools before coming to the United States in 1930, Ossorio is remembered in todayâ€™s art circles as a contemporary of Jackson Pollock and Jean Dubuffet. Â AÂ collector, he was Pollockâ€™s close friend and most important patron. Interest in his life and vibrantly hallucinatory art has been climbing steadily ever sinc
In the late 1940s, Ossorio formed vital friendships with Jackson Pollock and Jean Dubuffet, who showed him the value of reaching inward for inspiration rather than starting with an object or world external to himself. In 1950, Ossorio traveled to Victorias, Negros, to work on a mural for the Church of Saint Joseph the Worker, which his family had built.
The trip signaled his first time in the Philippines since his childhood, and it opened old wounds from his youth, prompting him to produce a stunning set of wax-resist paintings collectively known as the Victorias Drawings and centered on themes of childhood, birth, sexuality, mythology, and religion.
Celebrating Ossorioâ€™s centennial birthday,Â Michael Rosenfeld GalleryÂ throws open its blue-chip doors toÂ Alfonso Ossorioâ€”Congregations: The First Decade, 1959-1969, an exhibition of twenty-four of the mixed-media assemblages coined by the artist as â€ścongregationsâ€ť that have become emblematic of Ossorioâ€™s vision and capacity for innovation.
This exhibition, running September 10 â€“ October 29, 2016, is the first to be dedicated exclusively to his congregations in almost two decades. The last such show was curated by Klaus Kertess for the Parrish Art Museum (Southampton, NY) in 1997. That same year, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery presented its ownÂ Alfonso Ossorio: The Shingle Figures, 1962-1963.
The illustrated catalogue for Alfonso Ossorioâ€”Congregations: The First Decade, 1959-1969 will feature a full-text reprint of Forrest Selvigâ€™s 1968 oral history interview with Ossorio for the Smithsonian Institutionâ€™s Archives of American Art. It was in this interview that Ossorio first publicly used the word â€ścongregationâ€ť to refer to these assemblages.
The choice of a word replete with associations to religious practice is appropriate given Ossorioâ€™s lifelong relationship with Catholicism, but the significance runs deeper than its connection to worship (in fact, in Catholicism, â€ścongregationâ€ť is rarely used in that sense). â€śCongregationâ€ť evokes a collective as well as the process of coming together. Thus, in addition to highlighting the spiritual themes that run through Ossorioâ€™s entire body of work, â€ścongregationâ€ť also reveals something about his aesthetic practiceâ€”how he conceives of artistic form and how he goes about putting a work of art together.
Often within deep wooden frames, Ossorioâ€™s congregations bring together such disparate found objects as glass eyes, shells, animal bones, shards, pearls, feathers, and driftwoodâ€”synthesizing beauty with decay, refinement with crudeness, and reanimating (or resurrecting) these dead objects as vivid art.
His congregations, like human ones, are both unified and atomized at the same time. As Kent Minturn has explained, in these assemblages: â€śOssorioâ€™s mode of presentation is â€?everything all at once.â€™ Paradoxically, however, it is impossible for the viewer to perceive them in one fell swoop, to see a work entirely in one single glance. Each time the viewer confronts a congregation and tries to unravel its meaning, the work tells a new story.â€ť
Resisting immediate and complete apprehension, Ossorioâ€™s work demands time and attention from its viewers. In return, the congregations enthrall and entrance, they pulse with energy, oscillating between the material and the transcendental, and providing a unique experience with every viewing. â€” rg
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is located at 100 11thÂ Avenue (at 19thÂ Street), New York, NY, 10011. Gallery hours are Tuesdayâ€“Saturday, 10AM-6PM. For additional information, please contact Marjorie Van Cura at 212.247.0082 orÂ email@example.com.