Recently the subject of attention from Thomas Houseago and Hans Ulrich Obrist, and featured by curator Massimiliano Gioni in 2013's Arsenale at the Venice Biennale, the exhibition offers a timely opportunity for assessment of a remarkable artist. Sited on the 18th century Formal Terrace and adjacent garden with small works and drawings in the historic Bothy house, this unique environment draws out the extraordinary sensuousness and vitality of Josephsohn’s work.
Hans Josephsohn was born in 1920 in what was Königsberg, East Prussia. At 17 he studied art in Florence but was forced to flee because of his Jewish heritage. He settled in Zurich in 1938 where he established a studio in 1943. Here he made sculptures, drawings and reliefs until shortly before his death last year, aged 92. Throughout his career Josephsohn drew on a 30,000-year-old tradition of figurative representation to establish his style and a powerful body of work through which he captures intimacy, experience and presence. The standing and reclining figures, half figures and reliefs demonstrate Josephsohn’s sense of the human form. Each is inspired by a particular person, a fleeting portrait of their individual features. Josephsohn conceived his sculpture for architectural environments; at YSP they respond to both the linear stone architecture and softer Arcadian landscape.
Josephsohn made his sculptures by adding and taking away wet and dry plaster until satisfied with the form. This physical and instinctive way of working is reflected in the metal casts with their dynamic surface qualities, where the imprint of the artist’s fingers can be seen; his hand, his touch, is part of the substance of the material. Also unusual is the surface of the brass which, being unpatinated, keeps the finish as formed during the casting process. These are earthy, sensual, intimate sculptures made with great integrity.
With thanks to Kesselhaus Josephsohn. This exhibition has been made possible by the provision of insurance through the Government Indemnity Scheme. Yorkshire Sculpture Park would like to thank H M Government for providing Government Indemnity and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.