Born May 19, 1934, Judith Hoffberg was a librarian, archivist, lecturer, a curator and art writer, and editor and publisher of Umbrella, a newsletter on artist's books, mail art, and Fluxus art. She received an M.A. in Italian Language and Literature in 1960 and an M.L.S. from the UCLA School of Library Service in June 1964.Judith Hoffberg passed away peacefully on January 16, 2009
I last saw Judith this past Saturday at Hariet Zeitlin's opening at Track 16, still seeing shows, even though she was in a wheelchair. Her last editorial for Umbrella is excerpted below. There is also a great reminiscence by Judith on the Getty Villa and her days in Italy at ArtScene's website. She will be missed by many.
One would not have imagined a disease chasing me down the end of the road, but it happened in August, diagnosed in September, analyses were done by experts, and I came home on the first of October to hospice at my home. To say that I was in a state of shock would be a euphemism. It all came too fast.
As soon as I walked into the house, my life completely changed. I was no longer a writer, editor, publisher, traveler, choc-o-holic, insomniac; I was a cancer patient. I have acute myeloid leukemia. And in the interim between October 1st and as I write this, I have been organizing my archives, throwing things away I never would have otherwise, and preparing myself for the last journey. This is the most difficult editorial I’ve ever written to you, and it will be my last.
In the past, you have learned about alternative spaces all over the world, itineraries of trips that I have taken that have led me to exotic and creative places. You never bargained about learning about Fluxus, mail art and archives, video art, sound art, performance art, rubber stamps, and so much more that was fecund in those early years.
The whole field of artist books became my life and I wanted to share it with all of you. Although marginal at the beginning, it has grown into a movement, a new chapter in art history, one which is recognized by art historians, artists, and all of you. It has become almost too much now, with so many conferences, book fairs, and symposia to attend. And as usual, it has spread globally.
Obsessed with umbrellas and parasols, it allowed me to create a huge collection of “umbrelliana” which has overwhelmed both my domestic and storage settings. I learned more about textiles, fashion, kitsch, marketing, performance art, multicultural innovations with the object umbrella, encountering artists who used the image to intrigue me as well as to whet my appetite. It has been an easy image to collect in paper ephemera as well as almost 200 three-dimensional umbrella objects. From a tiny Chinese lace umbrella to a 19th century silk parasol, from 333 antiquarian books to countless artifacts, the collection has grown over the past 30 years.