Alfonso Ossorio Empty Chair or The Last Colonial 1969

  • MoMA, Floor 4, 415 The David Geffen Galleries

Candy-colored plastics and glass lure us to discover shells, nails, bones, and even weapons embedded in this complex assemblage. Prosthetic eyes stare back at us, and two small wooden figurines flank a central “empty chair.” Ossorio began making assemblages like this one around 1960. A decade earlier, he had taken his first trip since childhood to his native Philippines, an experience that led him to explore deeply the imagery of Western religion and Indigenous tradition. A naturalized American citizen, the artist confronted the violent history of Catholicism and colonialism, both in the Philippines and the United States. Empty Chair or The Last Colonial brings together found objects of indeterminate origin and a surreal mix of natural and artificial materials— evoking an unsettling array of relics, icons, curios, and totems, as if vestiges of a collision of cultures.

Gallery label from 2021.
Glass and plastic marbles, West African wood figures, tree fragments, pebbles, geode, iron nails, coral, seashells, wood shoe trees, lobster claws, sword, painted human foot bones and vertebra, faux pearls, plastic and wooden letters, plastic sheets and scraps, wood scraps, painted wood, animal claws and bones, domino, glass eyes, bell, and other materials on plastic sheets mounted on wood
46 3/8 x 39 1/4 x 15 7/8" (117.7 x 99.7 x 40.3 cm)
Gift of the artist
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

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