ALFONSO OSSORIO (1916 – 1990)
ALFONSO OSSORIO (1916 – 1990)

The Funeral! (Family Plot!)

ALFONSO OSSORIO (1916 – 1990)
The Funeral! (Family Plot!)
signed with the artist’s monogram (middle left); titled, dated and inscribed ‘The Funeral (Family Plot!) 1950 P.I. C50.174’, signed with the artist’s monogram (on the reverse)
watercolour, chalk, pen and encaustic on cardboard
55.4 x 77.2 cm. (21 3/4 x 30 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1950 (2)
Private Collection, Europe

The work is accompanied by an original edition of Peintures Initiatiques D'Alfonso Ossorio.
J. Dubuffet, Peintures Initiatiques d'Alfonso Ossorio, Editions La Pierre Volante, Paris, France,1951 (illustrated in black and white, cat. 8)

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Dexter How (陶啟勇)
Dexter How (陶啟勇)

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Lot Essay

Virtually absent from standard art history texts, Alfonso Ossorio's importance as an Abstract Expressionist artist was for a long time overshadowed by his immense wealth and socialite lifestyle. As heir to a sugar-refining fortune in Negros Occidental, Philippines, Ossorio and his life-long partner, Ted Dragon, ruled over The Creeks, the largest waterfront estate on Long Island, where the Filipino- American artist hosted for nearly forty years the grandest parties in the Hamptons. The Creeks were a cultural hub and a meeting place for Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Jean Dubuffet, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Costantino Nivola, as well as the home to Ossorio's impressive art collection and gardens. In 1949, Ossorio befriended Pollock and would become his greatest patron and supporter. Upon Pollock's suggestion, Ossorio travelled to Paris to meet French Art brut artist Jean Dubuffet. The two developed an immediate kinship. Curiously, Pollock would never meet Dubuffet in person, but as the two artists became leading protagonists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Ossorio helped bridge the gap between Europe and America.

Until the release of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Gregory W. Smith, Ossorio was regarded merely as a supporting actor of Pollock's life. The 2013 landmark exhibition Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet, curated by Dorothy Kosinski and Klauss Ottman at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. then at the Parrish Art Museum in New York, reveals a more nuanced narrative where the three artists are treated as equally seminal players.

The Funeral! , also more aptly named The Family Plot! , painted in 1950, stands as an early and incredibly evocative painting from one of the most important periods in the artist's career. That year, Ossorio returned to his home country, the Philippines, for the first time in almost 25 years. This transformative trip would produce some of the artist's finest works in the months following, known as his Victorias period (named after his hometown). Finding himself in his devout Catholic hometown brought up deep feelings of turmoil, as his sexuality and lifestyle conflicted with his family's values. The Family Plot! stands as a fascinating work that is filled with an almost spiritual intensity, showing Ossorio's deep disquietude during and after his trip home. The subject of the funeral serves only as a pretext to paint a social satire of traditional and antiquated rites, which he has completely rejected. Ossorio used a wax-resist technique that he developed after seeing it used in the work of Romanian surrealist Victor Brauner. After applying a light colour wash to the paper, Ossorio would draw forms with wax, and then paint in watercolour, which would saturate all areas of the paper except those with wax-drawn shapes. In an almost cathartic process, Ossorio creates his own raw visual language in a chaotic yet ordered fashion, imbued with pungent humour, confirming his place as one of the most interesting artists of his time.

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