“Sometimes an ideal world…”

A short film about the life and art of Cathy Josefowitz, narrated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel

  • Apr 28, 2023
  • “Sometimes an ideal world…” (2023) Directed by Freddie Leyden Narrated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel

The lyrical, unsettling work of Cathy Josefowitz (1956-2014) remains little known in the United States, the country of her birth. She was born in New York and at three moved with her family to Switzerland, where she developed an early love of drawing, influenced by her parents’ paintings, then by Surrealism, Cocteau, Boris Vian, Jean-Louis Barrault, Nijinsky and others. At sixteen, she entered the Théâtre National de Strasbourg to study theatre design, then moved to Paris and entered the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

Her first works were large expressionist and figurative paintings on craft paper, featuring motifs of the circus, games, costumes and eroticism. In 1977, harboring doubts about painting, she went to Boston, where she discovered dance and primal theater. She moved back to New York for a year, and then in 1979, at the age of twenty-three, she went to England to study dance at the Dartington College of Arts in Devon. There, she met two postwar dance pioneers: Steve Paxton, a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater in New York, and Mary Fulkerson, a founder of “anatomical release technique,” which influenced dance movement therapy.

These were years of great experimentation for Josefowitz, particularly through her interest in dance. After graduating from Dartington, Josefowitz created the dance and theater company Research and Navigation in Wales with Mara de Witt. She was active in feminist circles and highly involved in the gay-and-lesbian liberation movement.

Cathy Josefowitz, 1970s © Estate of Cathy Josefowitz

Cathy Josefowitz, Untitled, ca. 1974 © Estate of Cathy Josefowitz

In 1991, her son, Pierre, was born, and in 1995 she moved to Paris to dedicate herself fully to painting. Ever more tied to the body and gestures, she began creating very large-format paintings on the ground. Beginning in the 2000s, her notebook practice, which never left her, evolved from drawings to collage.

In 2004, she and her son moved to Geneva, and she continued to paint in a studio in the town of Carouge. Gradually, figures in her work disappeared completely, giving way to almost monochromatic variations of hazy surface. Josefowitz died of breast cancer on June 28, 2014, in Geneva.

Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel is a curator, writer and the director of Lafayette Anticipations, Fondation des Galeries Lafayette. From 2011 to 2019, she was curator at the Palais de Tokyo, and was the chief curator of the Riga Biennial, “and suddenly it all blossoms,” in 2020.

Cathy Josefowitz. Forever Young,” an inaugural solo exhibition of the artist’s work, opens May 11 and continues through July 22 at Hauser & Wirth on 69th Street in New York.