Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) presents the first major indoor and outdoor UK exhibition of sculpture and drawings by the late Zurich-based artist, Hans Josephsohn (1920-2012), in May 2013. The exhibition is a timely opportunity to see the work of this influential artist, at a time when his reputation as an important 20th century figurative sculptor is becoming established.
Recently the subject of attention from Thomas Houseago and Hans Ulrich Obrist and featured by architect Peter Märkli in the 2012 Venice Architectural Biennale, the exhibition at YSP showcases Josephsohn’s career, which spanned almost 60 years, and follows recent and forthcoming exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth, London and Modern Art Oxford.
Unique to YSP, the exhibition responds in particular to Josephsohn’s belief that his work should be sited and experienced in relation to architecture. YSP’s elegant 18th century Formal Terrace and Garden with 250-year old yew hedge, replete with niches designed for sculptures brought back from the Grand Tour of classical sites in Rome and Greece, are home to several of Josephsohn’s striking sculptures. As Professor Gerhard Mack, an expert in Josephsohn’s work and practice has said of the artist’s sculptures, “they also evoke the history of park sculpture, which cannot be divorced from the design of the English garden”.
Seeking throughout his practice to find a language for sculpture that contains its past, many of the artist’s works evoke art from classical societies including the monumental Moai sculptures on Easter Island and medieval Romanesque sculptures. Consideration of the physical and conceptual backdrop of the designed landscape at YSP underpin the siting of the show, referencing the artist’s historical inspirations and understanding of architectural context.
This exhibition traces the evolution of his bold, immediate and highly physical way of working: from slim abstracted forms, reminiscent of ancient stone steles and formed initially in tactile plaster, to large half-figures and reclining sculptures, cast in brass and left unpatinated.
Clare Lilley, Director of Progamme, YSP says: “There is an incredible immediacy about Josephsohn’s sculpture. Working from models – always friends – and working directly in plaster which is then cast in brass, his hand, his touch, is part of the substance of the material. These are earthy, sensual, intimate figures with huge integrity.”
Making reclining figures in the 1970s and returning to the subject in the 1990s, the progression in Josephsohn’s creative practice is demonstrated through the selection of works on display in the Formal Garden. Sharing similarities with Henry Moore, whose sculptures Reclining Figure Arch Leg.
(1969-70) and Three Piece Reclining Figure No 1 (1961-2) can be seen in YSP’s Country Park, Josephsohn drew inspiration from prehistoric relics, and the continuity of these artists’ mutual influences are considered through this presentation, juxtaposing works by the two sculptors within YSP’s grounds.
The inclusion of several reliefs determines another theme, tracing Josephsohn’s early abstractions in the 1950s and 1960s, through those that extended into space in the 1970s. The reliefs, which play a central role in all phases of Josephsohn’s production and place multiple figures in various relationships to each other, are shown alongside small works and drawings in a display within the estate’s 18th century Bothy Gallery, whose architectural character draws out the extraordinary sensuousness, vitality and intimacy of Josephsohn’s work.
11 May 2013 – 5 January 2014 (Bothy Gallery until 3 September 2013) Bothy Gallery and open air