“Vogel 50 X 50”

University of Alaska, Museum of the North, Fairbanks

All 50 works donated to Alaska by Herb and Dorothy Vogel on view through the summer of 2015 in the museum’s Collections Gallery.



Wendy Lehman. Single Minded Me

(graphite and acrylic on wood 46”x14”x4”, 1991)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
By Robert Hannon For the News-Miner

FAIRBANKS — Something extraordinary can arise from the commonplace, as “Vogel 50 X 50” makes clear. The exhibit, on display at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, comes from the art collection of Dorothy and Herb Vogel.
The Vogels were not wealthy or privileged. Herb sorted mail for the U.S. Postal Service. Dorothy was a librarian. They lived in a modest New York City apartment, but once their passion for art was kindled, they devoted their lives to attending classes, gallery openings and artists’ studios. Their rules of acquisition were simple: they bought what they loved, what they could afford and what could be carried on a bus or subway to fit in their apartment.
They ended up with one of the largest and most important collections of contemporary art in the United States, some 4,000 pieces, worth millions of dollars. The couple was not interested in the money. They donated the collection to the National Gallery of Art. An outgrowth of the agreement was “The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States” project. The University of Alaska Museum of the North was tapped to display Alaska’s portion of the collection. As a result, we have a rare and wonderful opportunity to take in seminal works by some of the leaders in American contemporary art.
The exhibit displays pieces with a wide range of styles and media, suggesting the Vogels’ tastes were eclectic. Nevertheless, they seemed especially drawn to conceptual expressions — what Herb Vogel called “tough art.” I found myself attracted to them as well. These are pieces where elements of color, texture, shape and pattern are stripped down to essentials and made to serve ideas that lie tantalizingly out of easy reach.
“Single Minded Me,” a sculpture by Wendy Lehman, is a fanciful assemblage of swirls, arcs, lines and blocks. In its structure, it suggests the higher one climbs, the more capricious things become. Lehman largely uses gray and black in her patterns, but where color erupts it is vivacious and unexpected.
Edda Renouf’s “Untitled” is a mysterious drawing that sets down lines of wedge-shaped characters reminiscent of ancient cuneiform writing. These lie on a pale brown field. One imagines a rare archeological manuscript, undecipherable but suggestive of great meaning.
Possibly, another example of cryptic writing is Richard Tuttle’s series “Loose Leaf Notebook Drawings.” These simple watercolor gestures seem inspired by Chinese calligraphy. Tuttle uses ordinary ruled notebook pages as the medium on which to explore shape and color. It is worth noting that Tuttle, who was a friend of the Vogels, is scheduled to speak at the Museum of the North on April 22.
“Vogel 50X50” is full of treasures, that reward repeated viewings. Dorothy Vogel said as much when someone asked about the couple’s art; “The more you live with it,” she said, “the more you see it, it grows on you.”
Fairbanks is lucky to have the opportunity to find that out for ourselves.
Robert Hannon has been writing occasional reviews for the News-Miner for more than a decade.



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