You can tell a lot about Dorothy and Herbert Vogel by looking at their furniture. Most of it was art.
One Richard Nonas chair, currently housed in the Yale University Art Gallery (“Please do not touch,” its label reads), was used for seating in their 550-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. Now, as part of the 2008 Fifty Works for Fifty States donation by the Vogels to art institutions across America, it helps represent the couple’s life of living modestly and collecting grandly.
Despite working within tight space constraints (the couple purchased only what they could transport and store themselves) and means (he was a postal worker, she a librarian), the Vogels were rich in social capital, befriending artists early in their careers and maintaining relationships as hype built or ebbed.
One wall of a new Yale gallery exhibit, Many Things Placed Here and There, is devoted to the Vogels’ Connecticut gift. It displays primarily works made personally for the pair. A colorful pup (“Pek—for Herb”) keeps company with a pencil portrait of the twosome by Will Barnet (“Study of the Collectors”) that illustrates Herb’s famously intense gaze with heavy brow lines and darkened pupils.
Once voted prom king and queen of PS1, Mrs. and Mr. Vogel amassed more than 4,000 works of art over their time together on the strength of both their popularity and careful spending. Their thrift matched the economical style of many of the pieces they purchased over the years—frequently, they focused on acquiring minimal and conceptual works. Many of the paper drawings on view at the YUAG still display the holes of the three-ring notebooks they came from. The presence of the artists’ process in many of the works reflects the behind-the-scenes view of art the Vogels were privileged to, frequently visiting studios and workspaces to buy directly, rather than through a gallery or dealer.
Yale students curated the exhibit. They decided to arrange the pieces by shared formal qualities—grouping them according to color, line, and space.
A set of Richard Tuttle watercolors on looseleaf paper form a strip to the viewer’s left on entering the space, leading one towards brasher pieces by Michael Goldberg and Peter Campus. The Goldberg—a vibrant neon pink color-field of lecturer chalk and sweeping, arm-length strokes of charcoal—is titled “Piede Vicentino (Vicentine Foot),” from the series Codex Coner, inspired by studies by Michaelangelo. The Campus piece consists of nine SX-70 color polaroids mounted in a rotating sequence that rhymes with a neighboring Tuttle piece, which uses a similarly bright, though less saturated spectrum of colors (... titled “Colors”).
The exhibit’s title is taken from a work by Lawrence Weiner, the full text of which runs, “Many Things Placed Here + There To Form a Place Capable of Sheltering Many Other Things Placed Here + There,” and which was displayed in the Vogels’ bathroom.
The phrase captures the functionalism of some of the works the Vogels collected (such as the Nonas chair), along with their modest acquisition style—guided by their eclectic tastes, humble resources, and networked social interactions. Following studio visit with studio visit, purchase with purchase, the Vogels took into their home a set of pieces that now reflects the progress of minimal and post-minimal art in New York in the second half of the twentieth century.