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.