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Vanguard Art Since the 1960s Selected from the Vogel Collection for Exhibition at National Gallery of Art, Opens May 29, 1994

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Sol LeWitt

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Anabeth Guthrie
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Release Date: March 24, 1994

Vanguard Art Since the 1960s Selected from the Vogel Collection for Exhibition at National Gallery of Art, Opens May 29, 1994

Washington, DC - Sol LeWitt's transitory wall drawings, John Cage's musical sketches, and Christo's wrapped objects are among the nearly ninety works that will be presented in From Minimal to Conceptual Art: Works from The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection at the National Gallery of Art, May 29 through November 27, 1994. The exhibition will include drawings, photographs, paintings, and sculpture which illustrate the radical expansion of intellectual and stylistic expression in Europe and America since the 1960s. From Minimal to Conceptual Art has been made possible in part by The Circle of the National Gallery of Art.

New Yorkers Dorothy and Herbert Vogel have assembled one of the country's most extensive collections of contemporary art. From Minimal to Conceptual Art will be the first major showing of their collection at the National Gallery of Art. Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, and Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk, both now retired, made front page news in January 1992 when the Gallery announced it would be receiving more than 2,000 paintings, drawings, and works of sculpture from their collection.

"The minimal, post-minimal, and conceptual works selected for this exhibition reveal much about the Vogels' extraordinary connoisseurship and their love of art, as well as their generosity in pledging much of their collection to the nation," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art.

Based in Manhattan, the Vogels began collecting the work of American and European vanguard artists in the early 1960s. Most of these works would later be classified as minimal and conceptual art. Through their formative relationship with the artists Sol LeWitt and Don Graham, the Vogels collected their early work and that of their stylistic generation, expanding aggressively across the spectrum to such artists as Robert Mangold, Donald Judd, Christo, Lynda Benglis, Richard Tuttle, John Cage, Sylvia Mangold, Richard Artschwager, Joel Shapiro, Carl Andre, and dozens of others. From the 1970s to the present, the Vogels have further expanded their collection to encourage, support, and acquire carefully chosen work by subsequent generations of minimal and conceptual artists and artists working in other styles, while also continuing their acquisition of current work by increasingly important older artists.

National Gallery curators Ruth Fine, modern prints and drawings, and Mark Rosenthal, twentieth-century art, and research assistant Molly Donovan are organizing the exhibition. The National Gallery will publish an illustrated catalogue that includes an essay tracing the development of minimal through conceptual art by John Paoletti, professor of art history, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut; an interview with the Vogels conducted by Ruth Fine; selected artists' writings; a selected bibliography of articles about the Vogels; and an exhibition history of their collection.

Following the Second World War, abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko, as well as a younger generation including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Ellsworth Kelly, provided models for the artists who came of age in the 1960s, a time when social mores and political policies were being challenged.

This new generation of artists questioned the entire practice of art-making, the nature of the art object, and how it functioned within society. Much of their art has been described as conceptual, minimal, and post-minimal. The objects in the exhibition illustrate how they refused to conduct artistic practice in traditional ways and explored new media, subject matter, and forms of expression.

Robert Mangold creates a tension between the drawn line and the shape of the canvas in such paintings as X Series (Medium Scale) (1968). Works of sculpture such as Carl Andre's Nine Steel Rectangles (1977), which is placed on the floor, and Donald Judd's untitled galvanized iron box (1965), which is cantilevered from the wall, possess qualities that characterize minimalism: a restricted, geometric vocabulary and a machined form, often commercially manufactured.

Jennifer Bartlett gives viewers a glimpse of the thought process that may go into composing a work of art in her drawing, Untitled (Two Trees, Two Houses Portrait of Lynda Benglis) (1976). Painting becomes sculpture in Lynda Benglis' works, including her untitled beeswax plank of 1971, which she created by applying an acetylene torch to a carefully layered wax surface.

The landscape itself, or sites, became a rich medium for works including the one recorded in Robert Smithson's drawing, Mudslide (1969). Dennis Oppenheim's 1970 Sunburn Piece recalls that period of social and political unrest over issues such as the war in Vietnam, which prompted a number of artists to choose self-violation as a mode of artistic activity.

The exhibition also includes works that question the nature of the artist's craft, the methods of artistic distribution, the arrangement of objects in museum settings, and gallery visitor expectations. These include: Japanese artist On Kawara's I GOT UP LATE... (1968/1969), a series of postcards mailed to the Vogels; Lawrence Weiner's Sentence Fragment (1980), a word piece painted on the wall; and Robert Barry's Closed Gallery (1969), a conceptual work marking a gallery exhibition that never opened.

Other artists represented in the exhibition are: Vito Acconci, Richard Artschwager, Jo Baer, John Baldessari, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joseph Beuys, James Bishop, Mel Bochner, Jonathan Borofsky, Daniel Buren, André Cadere, Chuck Close, Merce Cunningham, Hanne Darboven, Jan Dibbets, Dan Flavin, Dan Graham, Robert Grosvenor, Eva Hesse, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Brice Marden, Robert Morris, Richard Nonas, Nam June Paik, Edda Renouf, Klaus Rinke, Dorothea Rockburne, Dieter Roth, Edward Ruscha, Robert Ryman, Alan Saret, Joel Shapiro, and Richard Tuttle.