Hans Josephsohn - Untitled (Lola) (2002) / Untitled (2004) / Untitled (1990-91)
GODHEAD featured three sculptures by Hans Josephsohn (b. Kaliningrad, former USSR, 1920 – d. Zurich, Switzerland, 2012), who is considered one of the most important Swiss sculptors of the twentieth century. The sculptures offer just enough familiar points of reference to be recognised as human figures: the oval shape of a head, bulges that could be a nose or an ear, the suggestion of a mouth.
From the beginning of his long career, Josephsohn worked on the oldest theme in sculpture: the human figure. He made them standing, sitting, lying down, only the upper half, or just the head. Sometimes the sculptures appear to be assemblages of different views of a body. This encourages people to look at the works from all angles. From the 1980s on, Josephsohn primarily made half-figures, including the over-life-sized works in brass in GODHEAD.
The figures’ body parts do not have realistic anatomical proportions and are not developed in detail. They are simple forms, evoking associations with prehistoric stelae, upright memorial stones with carved motifs. Josephsohn’s works look solid; their surfaces are rough and crude. But they exude enormous dynamism. He was not concerned with representing reality or depicting individuality. The expressive power of the sculpture was what mattered, and how, within that, human existence could be conveyed.
The quest to convey the essence of life was a careful process of modelling in plaster. Later the sculptures were sometimes cast in bronze or brass. Plaster is not very hard, even after drying, so Josephsohn could continue to work on the basic form until he achieved his desired result. He was searching for a perfect balance between figuration and abstraction. This explains why the sculptures in GODHEAD showed visible traces of kneading and moulding and scraping and scratching.