Opening—17 Nov 2023, 6 to 8 PM
Hans Josephsohn’s work is characterised by his fascination with mass and form in space. Over the course of a six decade-long career, he continuously recalibrated dimensions and the relationship with their surroundings, by means of specific and repeatedly recurring forms. Josephsohn worked in distinct genres, among them the standing figure, the reclining figure, the half-figure and reliefs, as presented in the current exhibition. His sculptures are characterised by an urgent sense of physical materiality. For the artist, the human being manifested itself in the body, and human existence was characterised by its corporeality.
Josephsohn almost always worked directly from models, most of whom were wives or partners. Their names are sometimes included in the titles of the works, with two exhibited examples referencing ‘Ruth’ – Josephsohn’s most important model during the 1960s and early 1970s. These works seldom took on the physicality of portraits, and instead relied on impressions of the personality of his counterpart. He gradually moved from the almost abstract to the more figurative and back again. While Josephsohn’s early works still retain the slender appearance of stelae, the artist later became interested in enhancing the volume and form of his figures by working with quick-drying plaster, which he had then cast in brass or bronze. Traces of his search for the perfect expression through form can be seen on the finished works in the additions and subtractions of material and in the imprints of his fingers.
The selection of works in the exhibition at Bleibtreustraße 45 is based on the architecture of the gallery, which was originally designed as a residential space. The sculptures and reliefs blend harmoniously into each room, calling attention to the proportions of the works within their surroundings. Josephsohn’s large half-figure Untitled (Ruth) from 1974–75 does not transgress this framework but instead emphasises the difference in scale between smaller works, including an intimately- sized standing figure from 1957, at just over 70 cm height. In the second room, various human and possibly sculptural figures are grouped together in a relief, with two sculptures in a similar style – a standing woman and a small half-figure – from the same artistic period placed opposite. The third room presents a small, figurative bust Untitled, 1969 beside a larger-than-life, strongly abstracted bust, revealing the fluid complexity of Josephsohn’s approach to the genre of the half-figure. The last room is dominated by the sculptor’s reclining figure Untitled, 1965 and the distinctly vertical orientation of the early stele, demonstrating the contrast between the horizontal and vertical orientation at play within his oeuvre. The exhibition is not structured chronologically, but is rather oriented towards the dialogues that develop between Josephsohn’s sculptures and the surrounding architectural space.
The four large works exhibited in the gallery space across the road, on the ground floor of Bleibtreustraße 15/16, make reference to the urban setting of the gallery. Playing with the divide between the public and private domaine, the sculptures can be viewed outside opening hours from the street.
Opening—Saturday, 11 Nov 2023, 6 to 8 PM
Consisting of a group of life-size, hand-painted bronze female figures – nude or partially clothed – these new works operate along a scale of fleshy realism at one end, to anatomical waywardness and extreme surface turbulence at the other. Deviations from the norms of anatomy include supernumerary limbs, rampantly burgeoned hands, and strange outgrowths that might be outlandish hairdos or unexpected handles. Additionally the paintwork by turns emphasises and blurs distinctions between flesh and clothes, or suggests other kinds of ornamental surfaces.
This group of sculptures recalls an earlier group that Warren produced in 2003, for which she gained wide notice. Collectively titled SHE, that exhibition similarly consisted of several life-size female figures – though made in unpainted, unfired clay – with their anatomies pushed to extremes of comic and bathetic implausibility.
Her new work revisits and develops these ideas, narrowing and refining the differences between natural forms and postures, and the deformations and exaggerations towards which they might be pushed. The drive is to produce strange and unique beings with particular kinds of presences and purposes. Warren says of these variations that ‘they are in search of human mood, and the uncanny lifelikeness and humanity that survives even when the sculptures are pushed into weird abstraction’ and that ‘it’s tricky to be serious about art, to not automatically go for the easy answer. Art should be exposing, seriously worrying to get right – it’s there that the genuinely moving can occur, and the genuinely funny if it needs to.’
‘In my mind the “conventions” of the figure is what’s cool. Trying to make something different out of something that’s already been done to death makes me bend over backward, hold my breath and count to ten. I take a pulse. It’s faint. But I feel it. It’s barely there. Flat line? Almost. But I hold on. Lay it on me. Give me some skin. Give me some bones. It’s just like that The Mamas & the Papas song… “I’m in the mood for love.”’
Richard Prince, 2015
Cropped, pasted, painted and scanned, the exhibited works testify to Prince’s longstanding preoccupation with collecting and repurposing images while placing a renewed emphasis on the importance of the corporeal in his oeuvre. In these compositions, Prince splinters and reassembles photographic fragments of the female figure with varying degrees of legibility. The resulting collages assemble a new ‘body’, complicating notions of authorship and building on the tradition of figure painting.
Since the late 1970s, Prince has chronicled a wealth of images that haunt the American psyche – from cowboys and biker chicks to cars, nurses, and gag cartoons. In 1977, while working in the tear sheets department of Time Life, Prince began rephotographing discarded advertisements, removing all text before blurring, cropping, enlarging and, at times, grouping them for his own compositions. The human figure has also continued to be a crucial through-line, tracing back to the artist’s studies in the late 1960s and the figure drawing classes he attended upon his move to New York in 1974. Thinking about human flesh is ‘second nature’, Prince notes. ‘It grounds you and makes you think about posture.’
Fragmented and removed from their original context, some body parts remain recognisable as breasts, buttocks, bellybuttons and torsos, while others appear entirely abstracted, their curvatures recalling landscapes or dispersing into pure form. From up close, certain skins are grainy and textured, while the glossy surfaces of others evoke the cool smoothness of classical busts.
Remnants of tape used by the artist testify to the physical construction of these works, as do the visible brushstrokes that delineate the backgrounds of the darker images. In some compositions, Prince draws over his collages, extending the reconstructed bodies to endow them with grotesque feet, hands, and heads. Distinctions between printing and painting, natural and artificial, as much as the artist’s body and the body of the anonymous subject, thus literally and conceptually converge.