This is the first UK museum retrospective of the German-Swiss sculptor who died last summer, aged 92, just as he was beginning to enjoy acclaim after decades of obscurity. Even as they dominate the space around them, there remains something reclusive about every one of Josephsohn’s bulky, crusty reclining nudes and “semi-figures”, their layered, sensitively manipulated, ambiguous abstract/figurative
surfaces – built up in plaster and lost-wax bronze casting – at once restrained, rigorous, simplified, but tactile and exuberant.
Josephsohn’s ability to make indefiniteness monumental is what is so arresting to 21st-century audiences. If his untitled figures have faces, they are heavy yet delicately hewn, each subtly different from the next, though all appear unknowable, fleeting and at the same time static, authoritative as ancient totems. Josephsohn used models – from his wife to a passing porter at a nearby hospital who posed during his lunch break – but moved as
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