University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of English

Spring Exhibitions Feature Vogel Collection, Tibetan Art

art from On Drawing exhibit
Richard Tuttle. "Loose Leaf Notebook Drawing." 1980-82. Watercolor on notebook paper. (Image courtesy of the Fleming Museum)

The Fleming Museum opened this semester with an exhibition featuring the second half of an extraordinary gift of contemporary art donated to the museum by New York collectors Dorothy and Herbert Vogel and the National Gallery of Art.

New Yorkers of modest means, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel began purchasing contemporary art in 1962 and soon realized that drawings were of particular interest to them. Of the 4,000-plus works they collected in a period of more than 40 years, approximately three-quarters were drawings. Not only were the Vogels daring in their acquisition of works by young artists, but their decision to focus on drawing was unprecedented at the time.

This exhibition, "Dorothy and Herb Vogel: On Drawing," presents the second half of the Vogels’ gift to the Fleming Museum of Art, part of the Vogels' plan to distribute a significant portion of their collection throughout the United States, donating fifty objects to a single art institution in each state. The Fleming is the Vermont recipient of this esteemed and generous gift. Half of the Vogels’ gift to the Fleming was exhibited in the fall of 2013.

“It was a thrilling day in the life of the Fleming when we learned that the museum had been selected as Vermont’s recipient of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States gift," says Janie Cohen, museum director. "The collection built by this extraordinary couple is distinguished as one of the most important in 20th-century American art. What makes it particularly exciting for the Fleming, the University of Vermont, and the community, is that the gift significantly strengthens our 20th-century collection in a wide range of mediums and artistic expressions.”

Anonymous

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, the Fleming will open another exhibit: "Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan Art," featuring paintings, sculpture, installation, and video art by artists living in Tibet and in diaspora. Realized by guest curator Rachel Perera Weingeist, the exhibition is largely drawn from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection.

"Anonymous" seeks to explore the tension between an ancient culture’s unbroken artistic tradition and the personality-driven world of contemporary art. Anonymity and self-expression are commonly polarized values and artistic goals within the global art market. In traditional Tibetan art, a formal system of art production was used to support the transmission of Buddhist culture. In the present atmosphere however, art is becoming a vital medium of self-expression for Tibetans —  increasingly, artists are creating work focused on the individual. A cautious 21st-century visual language steeped in irony, metaphor and allusion has fully emerged.

As Weingeist explains, “It is only roughly in the last ten years that a contemporary Tibetan visual culture has galvanized. Concepts of anonymity, authorship and self-representation are still very much in flux. By and large there is trepidation and reserved acceptance of this new introspective visual culture.” "Anonymous" is a petri dish for exploring these developments. A surprisingly large number of the works submitted for the exhibition (more than 15 pieces) are self-portraits — remarkable for a culture with scant tradition of art expressing individuality, let alone self-representation. Dynamic juxtapositions of color and texture, life-size compositions, precise attention to detail, and a humorous use of pop culture imagery exemplify the simultaneously intellectual and playful visual language of contemporary Tibetan art.

The exhibit will serve as a catalyst for a series of public programs, artist talks and cultural offerings at the Fleming Museum. Frank J. Korom, Boston University professor of religion, will speak on the challenges facing contemporary Tibetan artists. Artist Tenzing Rigdol will speak about his work and experiences as a Tibetan artist living in the United States. The Tibetan Association of Vermont
will present a performance of traditional music and dance as well as a sampling of some traditional Tibetan food. During the course of a week in April, Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, N.Y., will meticulously create a sand mandala in the museum’s Marble Court. Near the close of the exhibition, director and musicologist Ngawang Choephel will present his film Tibet in Song, winner of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize.

Funding for "Anonymous" and related programs is provided by the Kalkin Family Exhibitions Endowment Fund and the Walter Cerf Exhibitions Fund. Additional funding for the 200-page, full- color exhibition catalogue that accompanies the exhibition is provided by the Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York, Arthur A. Anderson; and Jim and Mary Ottaway.

A public reception celebrating the spring exhibits will be held Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Fleming.

Remaining on display this semester is the student-curated exhibit "Eat: The Social Life of Food."