Abstract Pieces at The Phillips Collection
by kristin guiter
Number 7 by Jackson Pollock, 1952.
An artistic affair of sorts will be revealed in February as The Phillips Collection gets up close and personal with three seminal Abstract Expressionists in “Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet.” Cocurated by director Dorothy Kosinski and curator-at-large Klaus Ottmann, the exhibition—17 years in the making—shines a light on the relationship between American painter Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), American artist and patron Alfonso Ossorio (1916–1990), and French painter Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985).
The show highlights visual likenesses among the artists’ works, while also distinguishing between Dubuffet’s Art Brut, Pollock’s experimental techniques, and Ossorio’s figurative language. “As a devout Catholic, Ossorio used angelic motifs throughout his work; yet as a homosexual in the Catholic Church, he was conflicted. Pollock was plagued by demons, primarily through his alcoholism, and then Dubuffet—although he was far from it—cultivated the idea of savagery and the raw,” Ottmann says. “The title came about as common denominators in all three [artists and] their works.”
Featuring 53 paintings and works on paper, “Angels, Demons and Savages” focuses primarily on the period between 1948 and 1952, when critics pronounced that European art was dead and New York was suddenly the center of the postwar art world. Despite the shifting limelight, the discourse created with the works of Pollock, Ossorio, and Dubuffet represents an international aspect of Abstract Expressionism that is often overlooked in art history, says Ottmann. As a lesser-known yet powerful figure in the movement, Ossorio is the heart of the narrative: “Ossorio was this center point, or hub… connecting Europe and America during that time.” Celebrating more than 90 years of conversations in contemporary art, The Phillips serves as a fitting venue for such an exhibition. A collector of Ossorio’s work, Duncan Phillips founded the institution on the concept of creative dialogue. “Ossorio bridged the gap between American and European art during the [exact] time Duncan Phillips created conversations through his collection; it’s a perfect match,” Ottmann says. “Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet” is on view from February 9 through May 12. 1600 21st St. NW, 202-387-2151
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