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Friday, February 6, 2009

Out of the Rain (Judith Hoffberg Dies)

In the Los Angeles Times obituaries of January 28, I read of the death, on January 16, of collector, curator, and publisher Judith Hoffberg. She died, at the age of 74 of lymphoma.

I was startled by the news since we had seen her quite recently at a party
in the home of an art collector in Malibu, and I had talked to her briefly about my recently having had cancer. She made no mention of her own disease.

I can't remember when I first met Judith. It seems like Howard and I have known her forever, certainly as far back as Washington, D.C. In some ways she reminded me an aunt who was never introduced, but had known you all your life.

Hoffberg had been a major force in collecting and exhibiting the seemingly ephemeral work of the art world: artist's books, mail art, and hundreds of other objects produced by artists that did not quite fit into the standard notion of art.

Since Howard had shown early on work by Eleanor Antin and others who dominated the field of art mail and artist's books (and I published Eleanor's Eleanora Antinova's Plays on Sun & Moon Press and part of her "Recollections of My Life with Diagaliev" in my Sun & Moon journal, and had planned to publish her art mail masterwork 100 Boots) Judith appeared at numerous events we attended. Indeed, over the years, she appeared to be everywhere, expressing her joy of participating in the art scene while collecting essays and other information for her long-lived magazine, Umbrella.

People clearly loved Judith, inviting her to casual Sunday brunches, openings, special dinners, etc.. and Judith reciprocated by joyfully flashing her open smile while gossiping about recent events and the people involved.

That she also found time to work as at art librarian at various universities (Johns Hopkins University, The University of Pennsylvania, University of California, San Diego) and institutions (the Bologna Center in Italy and the Library of Congress) as well as curating shows such as "Freedom: The International Mail Art Exhibition," is a testament to her energy and love of the artistic life—which meant, for her, nearly anything the artist touched.

Los Angeles, February 6, 2009

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