At the age of 87, Hans Josephsohn is by no means an unknown entity, but he is an artist yet to be discovered. The reason for this circumstance may lie in the fact that his oeuvre stands like a monolith in the artistic developments of his time. He has never once participated in breathless, impetuous fashions, and he would no more keep anxious tabs on market occurrences than he would "package" his work in theoretical fabrications. With a combination of serenity and persistence, he has created an oeuvre whose development was determined solely from within his artistic process, a lifework that defies comparison with anything else in the art history of the second half of the twentieth century. The great appreciation and admiration Josephsohn's work is shown by younger artists is thus hardly surprising. Hans Josephsohn was born in Königsberg in 1920. Upon completion of his schooling he went to Italy, attended an art school in Florence and fled to Switzerland in 1938. He has lived and worked in Zurich ever since.
The work of Hans Josephsohn is devoted entirely to the human being, the classical theme of sculpture: standing, reclining, as a portrait or a half-length figure and - in the reliefs - figures in relationship to one another. The retrospective begins with portraits of the fifties and figures reminiscent of archaically reduced steles. In the course of the artist's ever-new endeavors, approximations and variations, the forms gradually increase in volume. In his late half-length figures, allusions to the physiognomy – eyes, nose, mouth, etc. – all but disappear. Josephsohn favours plaster, the material with which his ideas can best be realized, it is easy to handle and very flexible. "It's a kind of a cross between modeling and working with stone. I probably don't have the personality for sitting in front of a stone for half an hour and seeing whether a bit more should be knocked off. That's not my personality. With plaster I can just start working and knock some off. And if that ruins it, I go back to it the next day and add something to it again." The process of multiple translations from the live model to the first sculptural sketch, the large plaster figure and, ultimately, the metal cast transforms the quality of the features from special and individual to general. The exhibition in the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst and the catalog are the result of a joint effort with Kesselhaus Josephsohn at the Sitterwerk in St. Gallen, which presents a regularly changing display of the artist's plaster models and metal casts.