Alfonso Ossorio was born in Manila, Philippines in 1916 and immigrated to the United States in 1930. He studied and graduated from Harvard in 1938 before becoming a citizen in 1939.
Associated with the Surrealism movement, he began exhibiting in New York City galleries in the early 1940s, and grew in reputation until garnering Museum attention in 1953 where he was exhibited by the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In 1951 he purchased the Long Island estate previously owned by artist Alfred Herter and began devoting a great deal of attention to the estate (called "The Creek"), creating a botanical and sculpture garden and decorating his home with his collages, assemblages, and sculptures. He also had a large collection of contemporary painting and sculpture, as well as primitive and Asian art objects.
Ossorio’s own art encompassed painting, sculpture, collage and assemblage art, and he was commissioned to make a number of murals and artworks in public spaces, including Washington Square Park in New York City, and a large circular assemblage for New York’s Hilton Hotel in 1964. From the mid-1960s until Ossorio’s death in 1990, his work was included in numerous exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including Documenta III (Kassel, Germany, 1964); Contemporary American Sculpture (Whitney Museum, 1966); Dada, Surrealism, and their Heritage (MoMA traveling exhibition, 1968); 30 Years of American Art (Whitney, 1977); and Alfonso Ossorio 1940-1980 (Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, 1980). In 1989, the French art collector Daniel Cordier donated nine Ossorio works to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and in 1994, the Ossorio Foundation was opened in Southampton. Since 1989, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery has organized ten Alfonso Ossorio exhibitions with the support and assistance of the artist’s immediate family and the Ossorio Foundation.
He died in New York City in 1990 having shown at the Osaka Art Festival in Japan, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.