Richard Tuttle’s matrix of drawings on display at the Portland Museum; closer view

The inimitable Vogels (of Herb and Dorothy fame and featured in earlier posts here and here) have initiated Vogel 50×50, a program that has placed 2500 pieces from their collection in individual museums in each of the 50 states. Fifty Works for Fifty States is unique for a number of reasons but particularly because participating institutions must agree to hang all 50 pieces together.

From the Portland Musuem of Art‘s description:

Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means. After more than 40 years of collecting art, they decided to start giving the collection away. The Museum has been the recipient of 50 works from a national gifts program entitled The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States. The best-known works in the Vogel Collection are examples of minimal and conceptual art, but they also include pieces of a figurative and expressionist nature. Primarily a collection of drawings, the collection also includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, and prints by artists mainly working in the United States. This exhibition will feature a selection of the works from the Vogel gift which will include work by artists such as Will Barnet, Richard Tuttle, Claudia De Monte, and Steve Keister.

Before I saw the installation at the Portland Museum of Art last week, I regarded the requirement for 50 as a bit quirky. (Which is not surprising given the Vogels—both quirky AND inspired.) But after having seen the show I regard that stipulation as right on. The works are for the most part intimately sized (the Vogels only bought pieces that would fit in their small Queens apartment), so the impact is collective in the truest sense. Viewing only 10 or 20 at a time would just not give you the panoramic sense of what makes the Vogel aesthetic special. 50 is a good number. Solid.

Besides the Tuttle matrix pictured above, several other pieces caught my eye in the Portland show:

Michael Golberg (1924-2007)

Barbara Schwartz (1949-2006)

Claudia Demonte

Lisa Bradley

The Vogel story continues to astound, amaze, delight. While their financial resources were limited, their intensity was laser-like. If only they could be cloned.