Art: Old Hat No More

Wooden hat blocks are old hat to the millinery industry. A designer fashions a new shape, a whittler carves it in wood, and then it is mechanically mass-produced. Felt is draped over it, steamed and pressed into its contours, and voilà!—a new hat.

One of the first artists to look appreciatively at these molds was Alfonso Ossorio, an obsessive assemblagist who produces gaudy conglomerations out of the found objects that he squirrels away against the day when he may need them. By now he has accumulated hundreds of hat blocks at his East Hampton...

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