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.