The gay American artist and writer Joe Brainard brought new possibilities to the Pop Art sensibility by way of his sheer prodigious output of assemblages, collages and works on paper. Though an admirer of figures such as De Kooning and Warhol, Brianard was more at home socially and artistically with the likes of the New York School. The scope of his multi-dexterous technical aptitude, gifted compositional eye and ceaseless innovative imagination allowed him to take nearly any thing he could get his hands on and repurpose it, often in a humorous reconfiguration. Joe harvested materials from and associated with the lower and kitsch class such as comics, cigarette packs or male pornography magazines and would re-spin them with a playful whimsy to a poetic tune very much in line with his artistic contemporaries. The intimate scale, subject matter and playful sincerity of Joe’s work, influenced his artistic community and continues to inspire many today.
Joe Brainard was born in 1942 in Salem, Arkansas. He spent most of his formative years growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his brother, the collage artist, John Brainard. As a young man Joe became friends with and collaborators with poets Ron Padgett and Ted Berrigan prior to moving to New York in 1960. By 1964 Joe was enmeshed with many members of the New York School including James Schuyler, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, Jane Freilicher and John Ashbery. Brainard was a prominent fixture of and a beloved collaborator with this group for many years. Tragically, like so many others, Joe Brianard succumbed to AIDS related complications and passed away in May of 1994.
Joe Brainard’s artistic recognition came early on with his first solo show in 1965. His work has been included in a number of gallery and museum exhibition across the United States such as MoMA P.S.1 and the Berkeley Art Museum. His prolific is included in many notable private and public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of America Art, the Colby College Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In addition to his many visual art accomplishments, Brainard achieved notoriety for his 1970 Angel Hair publication I Remember, as well as many others, leading to The Library of America publishing The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard in 2012.