UC San Diego alumna Geraldine “Gerry” McAllister, a strong advocate for the arts on campus during her 25-year stint as director of the university’s Mandeville Art Gallery, has donated her collection of artists’ books to the Library’s Special Collections & Archives. McAllister, who received her B.A. degree and subsequently her M.F.A. from the university in 1974, also served as president of the UCSD Alumni Association, and was its first dues-paying Life Member.
After receiving her M.F.A., McAllister worked as director and curator of the university’s Mandeville Art Gallery for the next two decades, where she exhibited the works of many prominent contemporary artists. In spite of her modest budget, McAllister—who was known on campus and in the art world as a bold mover and shaker—succeeded in bringing in numerous well-established artists, including a traveling exhibit of paintings by Frida Kahlo.
McAllister, who studied visual arts, and was married to artist Adare McAllister until his death in 2012, began collecting contemporary artists’ books in the 1980’s. Her collection of 128 artists’ books comprises several rare and valuable works by well-known regional as well as international artists, some with strong university ties. The collection includes works by John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Jenny Holzer, Edward Ruscha, and Niki de Saint-Phalle, as well as art by Alexis Smith, Kara Walker, Allan Kaprow, and Bruce Nauman.
“Gerry McAllister’s fabulous gift of artists’ books is truly an outstanding complement to the Library’s existing collection,” said Lynda Claassen, director of the Library’s Special Collections & Archives, which houses one of the largest collections of artists’ books on the West Coast. “Some of these works of art are unique and much sought after, one-of-a-kind items or very limited editions.”
Of particular interest is artist Kara Walker’s large pop-up book—“Freedom: a fable,” which features scenes from slave life with cut silhouettes in black paper. McAllister’s collection also includes Bruce Nauman’s “L.A. Air,” described as a kind of toxic color-field theory, featuring photographs of the polluted L.A. air of the 1960’s. Chris Burden’s “B-Car” tells the story of the artist’s successful attempt to create a 100 MPH/100 MPG “bicycle car,” his fantasy of what the ideal car should be. “Colored People,” an ironic work by Ed Ruscha, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, depicts color illustrations of palms, cacti, succulents, and other plants.
The Library’s Special Collections & Archives, holds one of the largest and most diverse collections of artists’ books in the Western U.S., and comprises more than 3,000 items, representing a rich variety of creative works in a wide array of media formats. While artists’ books can take their cue from the book format, some adopt the book’s narrative approach but depart from the linear constraints and predictability of a traditional book. Others are entirely handmade, and bear no resemblance to the book format. The artists’ book collection in Special Collections & Archives includes gorgeous works of art representing more traditional artistic collaborations, such as a rare edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” with original lithographs by impressionist painter Edouard Manet. The collection also includes the “mass mailings” of Ed Ruscha, and creative works by artists Tom Phillips and Ian Tyson, which meld poetry and other forms of writing with imagery.