W hy does a person start collecting art? To make money, perhaps, or to show the world one’s impeccable taste. Or maybe to support a beloved artist and to share that work with the rest of the world.
In Dorothy and Herb Vogel’s case, it started with a date. On their honeymoon in Washington, D.C., they visited the National Gallery of Art, and from there they were off, visiting the studios and shows of John Chamberlain, Sol LeWitt and Robert Mangold and establishing lifelong friendships with artists.
After acquiring their first piece of artwork in 1962, an untitled sculpture by John Chamberlain, the Vogels became serious and well-known collectors, eventually amassing over 4,000 works of Minimal, Conceptual and Postminimal art. Incredibly, the Vogels did all this on her salary as a librarian and his as a postal clerk. What’s more, they had to fit all their art into their 550-square-foot, one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, jam-packing it with framed works and sculptures.
In 1990, the Vogels began transferring some 2,000 works to the National Gallery of Art. They continued to collect, though, and in 2008, with the help of the National Gallery, the couple directed 2,500 works into the Fifty Works for Fifty States program, with one museum or gallery in each state receiving work from the Vogels’ collection to display.
Connecticut’s portion, in an exhibition titled Many Things Placed Here and There, is now on view on the fourth floor gallery of the Yale University Art Gallery and will be up through January 26, 2014. The exhibition conjoins works from the Vogels’ collection with pieces from the Yale University Art Gallery’s permanent holdings in order to give viewers a stronger sense of the breadth and depth of the art that was once in the Vogels’ apartment. Here and There’s student-curators, who were supervised by YUAG curator Molleen Theodore, include current PhD candidates in History of Art Bradley Bailey and Audrey Sands; recent undergraduate students Laura Indick ’13, Elena Light ’13 and Emma Sokoloff ’13; and current undergraduate Nicholle Lamartina ’14.
The introductory section of the exhibit “highlights works given to the Vogels by artists and displays these works in a manner reminiscent of the Vogels’ home,” as the catalogue remarks, and serves as a brief biography of the couple. In the center of the cluster is Will Barnet’s graphite sketch, Studies of Herb and Dorothy Vogel (1977), pictured above. This drawing gives a glimpse of the Vogels’ personalities through Dorothy’s direct eye contact with the viewer and Herb’s questioning and discerning arched eyebrows.
The Vogels are undeniably at the center of this exhibition, but they are also not there: this work is the only one in which they directly appear, and because it is a graphite sketch, the Vogels appear ghostly, as if to remind the viewer to focus on the art, not on them. Barnet’s drawing is closely surrounded by twelve other works in a variety of styles, several of which were birthday presents for the Vogels from the artists, including Cheryl Laemmle’s vibrant encaustic painting of a Pekingese, Pek for Herb—Happy Birthday (1997), and Richard Tuttle’s Dorothy’s Birthday Present (1991), which the artist framed himself, including the raw edge of the notebook paper as a reminder of the piece’s ties to a specific time and place.
Because many of the artists whose work is on view here are still alive, the curators were able to conduct interviews with them while preparing Many Things Placed Here and There. The result is an exhibit keenly interested in process and intent. Many of the works are organized by type and style. In one section of the gallery, works by William Anastasi, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Stephen Rosenthal and Dorothea Rockburne are grouped together, emblematic of artwork that engages “with the line as a foundational element.” Rockburne’s Locus (1972) stands out in particular; the artist etched lines onto a copper plate and printed them on paper, which she then folded along those lines and ran through an inked aquatint plate, for a shaded, sculptural effect. In another, works by Charles Clough, Peter Campus and Steve Keister are grouped by a common exploration of the use of color. Clough’s Caravel (1995) entices the viewer with joyous, bold swirls of color, beckoning from across the room, while Campus’s series of tinted self-portraits, Untitled (1974), has a far eerier effect.
The curators were also able to work directly with Dorothy Vogel herself, and Ms. Vogel will be joining exhibition curator Molleen Theodore in conversation at the Gallery on Thursday, November 7th, at 5:30 p.m. On November 17th at 3:00 p.m., faculty and students from the Yale School of Music will be performing minimal and conceptual music.
Many Things Placed Here and There has so much, and so much variety, on display that it’s hard to take it all in. I almost completely missed Lucio Pozzi’s Double Step 20 (1985), hung slightly above and to the right of his intensely captivating Untitled, from the Artifacts at the End of a Decade portfolio (1981). Perhaps a viewer a bit taller than me won’t have the same trouble, but it made me keenly aware of what navigating the Vogels’ apartment must have been like when it was full of so much art.
The Yale University Art Gallery certainly isn’t short on artwork to view, but it’s worth spending a trip just looking at this collection. Sit with it, take your time. And if you need a breather before switching from beautiful studies of line and texture to riots of color and shape, pop up to the recently reopened sculpture terrace to take in an autumn sky and views of Yale’s campus. While you’re up there, perhaps you’ll find that you, too, have suddenly been bitten by the urge to fill your home with art.
Many Things Placed Here and There
at the Yale University Art Gallery – 1111 Chapel St, New Haven (map)
Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Thurs 10am-8pm, Sat-Sun 11am-5pm
Written by Elizabeth Weinberg. Image, of Studies of Herb and Dorothy Vogel (1977) by Will Barnet, provided by Yale University Art Gallery.