Josef Hofer, who has been a resident of an Austrian institution for more than 30 years, does not speak. He draws. Tirelessly. In the metaphoric mirror that he uses and reaches out to us, people attempt to flee from the straitjacket of the frame with eroticized and untamed grace. His works - to which Michel Thévoz has devoted several essays - depict a founding duality between body and psyche. Present in numerous museum collections, he is also part of great private collections: A. de Galbert (France), A. Shaker (Switzerland) and even in the collection of A. Rainer (Austria), who considers him “one of the greatest of the brut contemporary artists.” A significant number of his works was donated to the Centre Pompidou collection in 2021 while the gallery became the owner of his estate in 2022.
Josef Hofer might not speak, but he draws constantly. He was born in 1945 and spent his early life on a farm in Upper Austria. The family lived in isolation since Josef and his brother both suffered from learning difficulties and hearing and speech problems – Joseph also had impaired mobility – and his father wished to spare them from being teased by the locals and, more importantly, to protect them from the Nazis and, later, the Soviets. When Josef’s father died in 1982, his mother took him and his brother to live in Kirschlag, giving him the chance for some social contact and the opportunity to attend a day clinic. These changes proved beneficial, and Josef even spoke a few words. He later became an inpatient at an institution in Ried, where Elisabeth Telsnig spotted his love of drawing and encouraged his creativity.
Pepi, as he signs his works, observed and narrated his own life. His works are a mirror reflecting himself and the spectator and revealing the hypnotic infancy of art. As Michel Thévoz writes, “Josef Hofer is in a state of grace” – an erotic, untrammelled form of grace where the body strives to break free from the prison of the frame. The sensual, raw nudity shines through the confident, unpolished lines in warm hues.
Numerous exhibitions and publications have been devoted to Josef’s art since the retrospective held by the Collection de l’Art Brut in 2003. His drawings – shown at our gallery in 2008, at Drawing Now Paris in 2009 and 2010, and at Art Paris 2010 – are now featured in all the major Art Brut collections world-wide. His work was shown at Turin 2010 by the Museum of Everything, while 2011 will see a retrospective of his work, together with a catalogue, in Prague. Later this year, he will also become the first artist to have a second retrospective devoted to his work at the Collection de l’Art Brut, accompanied by a major book-length study.
Preface : Elisabeth Telsnig & Philippe Dagen
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Josef Hofer : transmutations, from December 5th, 2015 to January 16th, 2016.