“For me it’s art history. What we did then is art history”

Were the things placed right?
Were the things placed right? // Blair Seideman

The Yale University Art Gallery’s new student-curated exhibit, “Many Things Placed Here and There: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection,” is not to be missed. The special exhibition invites its visitors to engage a sliver of unlikely collectors, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel’s 4,000-work modern art collection. The thorough and well-curated exhibit takes its visitors on two simultaneous and interwoven journeys — one through the intimate lives and relationships of the Vogels and the artists whose work they collected, and another through the redefining artistic and cultural revolution that marked the latter half of the 20th century, during which the Vogels were amassing their seemingly impossible collection. The YUAG, a teaching museum, seems the perfect home for these stunning works as the collectors and the Gallery share the same goal of direct confabulation with works of art.

Four skillful Yale undergraduate (Laura Indick ’13, Elena Light ’13, Emma Sokoloff ’13, Nicholle Lamartina ’15) and two Ph.D. history of art students (Bradley Bailey GRD ’13, Audrey Sands GRD ’17) collaborated to fuse the donation Yale received from the Fifty Works for Fifty States program, bringing 50 works from the Vogel collection to one institution in each of the 50 states, with works from the YUAG’s permanent collection by artists that the Vogels also collected. The minimalistic and spacious display of the 75 featured drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures seems a well-needed departure from the crowded one-bedroom home they formerly shared with 3,950 other roommates.

White walls and stands create an inviting maze that allows visitors to wind their way into closed-off sections, but also maintains a general cohesion to the works. Visitors are guided by the wall descriptions but not forced to explore the exhibit in any particular order physically, allowing them to experience the exhibit almost as if they were being entertained at a home — a home more spacious than the Vogels’ one-bedroom New York apartment. The exhibit even features a living room section that departs from the traditional linear wall-hanging style, featuring paintings mounted together in a visually appealing, but structureless form — perhaps an homage to the Vogels’ cluttered home. The centerpiece of this section is Will Barnet’s graphite, “Studies of Herb and Dorothy Vogel,” a personal detail indicating their deep connection to the post-1950s New York art scene.

Additionally, the curators chose to create smaller sections — almost makeshift rooms — by inserting strategic walls engaging the featured works in a further conversation and cohesion of color, subject matter and style. Within these classifications, the diversity of media is astounding. The exhibit features everything from Richard Tuttle’s loose-leaf notebook drawings to Charles Clough’s layered pools of paint, to Loren Calaway’s sculptures that look like furniture, to Peter Campus’ color instant prints.

“Many Things Placed Here and There” pays a special tribute to the Vogels’ collecting process; their style, character and complementary tastes are on full display. While the visual focus is certainly on the stunning works of art — this unique snapshot of a momentous and revolutionary period in art history — the exhibit devotes much of its written material to the personal relationships the Vogels shared with both the artists and their works. The curators paid special attention to giving these relationships pride of place, for example juxtaposing works by father and daughter pair Edda and Edward Renouf, who naturally influenced each other’s art. The Renoufs also played a large personal and artistic role in the Vogels’ lives, Edward even meeting the Vogels through his daughter.

All of the works are brimming with energy, invigorated through color and gesture with the passion that characterized the period from 1962 to 1990, during which the Vogels collected. Even Edda Renouf’s paintings and drawings, all in muted tones of black, white and grey, explore a more dormant energy, a detail not readily apparent in the physical works, but bolstered by the accompanying wall writing. Lucio Pozzi’s “Young King” is more overtly energetic, featuring the oil-painted face of a young warrior, the paint textured with a palette knife, adding movement and depth.

This exhibit is exceptional, particularly for its attentive and skilled curatorial work in the form of extensive primary and secondary research and poignant dedication to detail. Student curators were responsible for creating all aspects of the exhibition, and their final product — both exhibit and catalog — should be an inspiration to their peers.

“Many Things Placed Here and There: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection” is on display through Jan. 26, 2014, in the Fourth Floor Special Exhibitions Gallery of the Yale University Art Gallery.

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