Robert Gore, visual arts librarian at the UCLA Library, has established the Robert Gore and Mitchell Levin Endowment for Artists’ Books in the Arts Library to support the acquisition, management and preservation of resources for artists' books.
The endowment honors Gore's partner, Mitchell Levin, who passed away unexpectedly in November 2021. A story analyst for major film studios, as well as a writer and teacher, Levin’s discernment of written and filmed narratives was legendary.
“I know it’s a cliche but in terms of intelligence, Mitchell really was often the smartest person in the room,” said Gore. “From the time I first introduced him to the artists’ books collection, he was fascinated. He considered them genre busting. They became an abiding interest of his.”
Artists’ books don’t fit into any formal categories as books or art. The artists/authors who construct them conceptualize what most readers would consider a “book” and use that idea to create a work of art. The books' makers manipulate a variety of mediums to recount personal and public narratives, which often chronicle contemporary topics and events. This form of storytelling makes room for the reader to be surprised by what they find, allowing for a more intimate understanding of the content.
The gift also celebrates Gore’s passion for the collection. Funded exclusively by donor endowments and gift funds, and due in sizable part to Gore’s acquisitions over his 17-year tenure, UCLA Library has become one of the largest holders of artists’ books in North America.
When acquiring an individual artist’s book, Gore said he is most interested in whether it will spark discovery and discussion among students, including undergraduates he teaches during his Fiat Lux seminar on the topic.
“I’ve observed that the issues covered in many of the books are very relevant to their lives,” he said. “Students who have the opportunity to make their own books often take the time to reflect on their experiences, and they create powerful personal narratives.”
“Mitchell loved artists’ books and he wanted everyone to know about them,” said Gore. “Ensuring that they continue to be acquired for the Arts Library is one of the best legacies I can think of.”