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Hans Josephsohn

Untitled, 1991
brass, concrete plinth
158.0 x 65.0 x 60.0 cm
This imposing work, which at first glance has the archaic appearance of an ancient vestige marked by time and corrosion, belongs to a series of half-figures that Swiss sculptor Hans Josephsohn created beginning in 1988.

A closer look at this enigmatic volume and its irregular surface reveals an emerging female bust and the rough outline of a face with modest nose and prominent chin, on a robust neck, her hands joined over her chest. The artist did not base his portraits directly on nature, though he took inspiration from models in his immediate circle, in this case borrowing features from his wife Verena.

Although freed from conventional representation, the human body is the very essence of Josephsohn’s work. From the time when he began working in the 1940s, the artist studied the body’s corporeality in several series of sculptures that were either full-length, sprawling or low-relief. He gradually showed the need to condense the figure, preserving only the core, avoiding semblances, in a constant search for an inner, immanent energy.

Primarily guided by plastic concerns bordering on the architectural, Josephsohn never stopped exploring the body’s tectonic construction and proportions, in search of an adequate form with raw materiality.

The figure was the fruit of a relentless questioning of the notions of space, volume, weight and light. It was first carefully shaped in plaster, its material added with a spatula whose traces it preserves. Then it was molded and cast in a copper and zinc alloy with a special patina, before being placed on a concrete plinth.

Although his work was formally different, Josephohn’s approach was similar to that of Alberto Giacometti insofar as he aimed to breathe potential life into the material. Driven by a creative fervor devoid of any preconceived idea, he created a highly idiosyncratic world that provides us with a unique vision of humanity.
Hans Josephsohn, Untitled, 1991