Art Brut – or at least the ideal of pure creativity, with all the caveats such a notion demands – is sometimes marked by an artist like a comet blazing a trail across the skies. Such artists may not provide unequivocal confirmation of the key tenets of Art Brut, yet they give them tangible form.
Josef Hofer is not merely an example of such artists: he is the very archetype. Arnulf Rainer, a leading collector of his work, describes him as “the greatest” of all contemporary Brut artists. Hofer is a candid Narcissus whose reputation has spread beyond a small circle of specialists for nearly ten years now. He translates the fundamental duality between body and psyche into pictures that are part what Michel Thévoz calls the childhood of art, part what Philippe Dagen describes as a protocol of exorcism. Hofer literally exhausts his subject, so that neither the advocates of absolute primitivism nor the champions of triumphant culture are able to claim the upper hand.
His inventions are located in the pressure zones between these two tectonic plates, where continents that appear far removed from each other in fact overlap in the depths, further challenging the usual cartographies of art. In this land of instability and new foundations, the artist stands firm, yet devoid of posture – a stranger to conjecture, yet present body and soul, and deeply involved, maybe even entangled. Josef Hofer brings himself into play. As a first-person presence, an I. And as everybody knows, “I is another”. An alter ego.
Josef Hofer, who has been a resident of an Austrian institution for more than 30 years, does not speak, he draws instead. Tirelessly. In the mirror that he uses and hands us, individuals try to take their rise in the straitjacket of the frame with an eroticized grace, untamed. His productions - to which Michel Thévoz has devoted several essays - depict a founding duality between the body and the psyche. Present in many museum collections, he is also part of great private collections: Antoine de Galbert (France), Amr Shaker (Switzerland) or even of the collection of Arnulf Rainer (Austria), who considers him “the greatest of the brut artists.”
Prefaces : Philippe Dagen, Elisabeth Telsnig
Foreword : Christian Berst
Photographies : Mario del Curto
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Josef Hofer : alter ego, from december 2nd, 2011 to january 14th, 2012.
Co published with les éditions Le livre d’art, 2011.