Hans Josephsohn brings scarred figurative sculpture to Modern Art Oxford

By Mark Sheerin | 07 March 2013

Exhibition preview: Hans Josephsohn, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, until April 14 2013

Colour photo of rough looking figurative sculptures in a gallery
© modernartoxford.org.uk
Considering the many scars left by fascism on the 20th century, it is sad we must credit World War II with any kind of influence on the plastic arts. Yet it is impossible to distinguish between the work of German sculptor Hans Josephsohn and the work of a fugitive from Mussolini’s Italy, a man of Jewish extraction and an artist whose work is a response to the Second World War.

As a result, the rough finish of his half-formed figurative sculptures darkens the mood and his silent models may have borne witness to countless atrocities. Their expressive cast would appear to defy any prevalent favour for idealised human forms. History is a prism through which work like this can never be the same again.

In any case, Josephsohn led a long and professionally successful life until his death in August 2012. And this meant that in later years he could afford to get his plaster models cast in bronze by means of a complex procedure called lost wax casting. But this only makes the crumbling appearance of large torsos, busts and reclining figures seem all the more traumatised.

Regardless of all that, the late sculptor is set to have a good year in the UK. Following his stint at Modern Art Oxford, a May opening is planned for his show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. By which point we may still be at war somewhere, and these monumental works will still make a ragged kind of sense.

  • Open 10am-5pm (7pm Thursday-Saturday, closed Monday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @mao_gallery.

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