Alfonso Ossorio’s practice underwent phases, from dexterously drawn surrealist images to wax-resist works informed by psychoanalysis. In much of his works, Ossorio grapples with the weight of personal history and philosophical reflections on matter and spirit, as well as the spectres of memory. The Singapore Biennale presents Ossorio’s Congregations, a class of works in his oeuvre that swarms with ornament, fantastic objects from driftwood to rhinestone and glimpses of otherworldly references, akin to dreams or triggered by a heady imagination. The ecology of the Congregations is breathtaking. “They all work together,” in the artist’s words. “Either the bone disintegrates, or it’s fused into the picture. It’s a step in the continuity. It’s not dead, it’s continuing.”
Image courtesy of the Robert U. Ossorio Foundation and Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
Alfonso Ossorio (1916–1990) attended school in the United Kingdom before settling in the United States in the 1930s. He graduated from Harvard University in 1938 before briefly studying painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. He was a colleague and collector of Jean Dubuffet and Jackson Pollock. In 2018, Ossorio’s works were exhibited in a Philippine museum for the first time as a survey in ‘Alfonso Ossorio: A Survey 1940–1989’ at the Ayala Museum (Manila). His solo exhibitions, ‘Congregations, 1959–1969: A Centennial Celebration’ (2016) and ‘Alfonso Ossorio: Blood Lines, 1949–1953’ (2013) were held at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York.