UCLA Arts: Judith A Hoffberg Artists' Books collection

Visual Arts Librarian Robert Gore and I spent some time with their current in-house exhibition, a selection of the Judith A Hoffberg Collection of Artists' Books.
Robert is growing the Art Library's Artists' Book collection regularly through acquisitions donated and purchased. Although he has a relatively small budget for these acquisitions, he has a keen eye and his ear to the ground.

Much of UCLA's Artists' Book collection is held and managed by Special Collections. Many of their works are short run, high end objects with a finely crafted, almost sculptural element (by, for example, Julie Chen and Mary Heebner).
The Art Library's Artists' Book collection is significant, but with a different flavour (and a more modest budget). Hoffberg's collection in particular represents the flourishing of the Xerox revolution of the sixties and seventies, the 'democratic multiple' and early experiments with underground and alternative publishing and distribution.
Judith Hoffberg (1934-2009) was an industry icon I was whose background pleased to discover and explore. Librarian, curator, editor, facilitator, early promotor of Artists' Books and Mail Art. Read about her here and here. My hero.
As editor of Umbrella, a journal dedicated to the practice of Artists' Books, she was uniquely positioned to promote and collect the book as art.

She also championed Correspondence/Mail Art. Like the Artists' Book, Mail Art is another DIY movement rising in prominence in the sixties and seventies when practitioners of Art sought to separate themselves somewhat from the commodification of Culture, and to democratise the distribution of art. This practice is also represented in the donation, and the current exhibition.

The Hoffberg collection is an important acquisition for the library. A giant in her field, her tastes were broad, eclectic and non-judgemental. This scope resulted in a truly democratic survey of book art practice. The donations were made in several batches. Robert joined the team in 2005, and worked with Judith to negotiate the final group of materials from her.

The collection itself is vast, and while valuable, represents what all large donations do- a huge workload to catalogue and realise as a resource. There are literally thousands of Artists' Books awaiting cataloguing currently. Robert is working with a member of the cataloguing department who has submitted a proposal for internal funding to work on the backlog in the library as a whole. The Arts Library, as recipient of many valuable donations from individuals and organisations has a large backlog of gift materials awaiting cataloguing. While internal funding is the first step, Robert is also considering a possible external and more specific grant, from an organisation such as the Getty.

In the meantime, projects like the current exhibition are making a dent in the Hoffberg treasure trove. UCLA Information Studies Department Professor Johanna Drucker (herself an expert in the field, and book artist to boot) tasked her class with creating an inventory on the in-process Hoffberg collection. The students submitted papers on various aspects of the process, and this exhibition is a culmination of their work. The inventory provides a valuable first look at some of the uncatalogued collection, and will additionally allow Robert to better pitch it for further attention.
While much of Special Collections Artists Books are higher end, shorter run art objects, and protected accordingly, the Art Library's collection of rare and varied 'democratic multiples' is in fact a highly used resource. Not only valuable from the library science prospective of Johanna Drucker's class, fine art programs with a focus on projects in book form also contribute to it's importance as a teaching collection.

In fact, Robert himself has instructed courses on Artist Books, with undergraduates examining these works and producing new works that add to the Library's collection.

UCLA Visual Arts Librarian Robert Gore looking sharp.

Supported by the UCLA preservation/conservation unit, the works are protected with bespoke archival boxes and sheaths, accommodating of their unique structures.

The catalogued Hoffberg Collection downstairs, in the Cage.

Janine Henri and I take a peek in this box: a work titled Zero Post. "Nothing left for art to say; everything left for art to do" from Stamp Art Gallery.