Joe Brainard (1942-1994)

Fall 2009 Issue

Joe Brainard was born in Salem, Arkansas, in 1942, but shortly thereafter his family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he grew up. From an early age Joe showed artistic talent. In the early Sixties, Brainard found inspiration in New York City where he met a plethora of talented artists and writers including: Joseph LeSueur, Frank O'Hara, Kenward Elmslie, Kenneth Koch, Alex Katz, James Schuyler, Edwin Denby, Larry Rivers, Fairfield Porter, Jane Freilicher, Rudy Burckhardt, and Yvonne Jacquette, soon followed by Andy Warhol, John Ashbery, Jasper Johns, Ned Rorem, Virgil Thompson, and others, as well as younger poets later associated with the St. Mark's Poetry Project, such as Anne Waldman, Lewis Warsh, Tony Towle, Tom Clark, Larry Fagin, and Michael Brownstein, to name a few. His early paintings and assemblages showed the influence of Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Joseph Cornell, but Joe's work soon distinguished itself by its lyricism, wit, warmth, and generosity, combined with his penchant for making art that was unabashedly beautiful. His 1975 show at Fischbach consisted of 1,500 miniature works. It was praised by New York Times art critic John Russell as "the wittiest show of the winter."

Brainard’s drawings, collages, assemblages, and paintings are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Yale University Art Museum, and the Joe Brainard Archive at the University of California, San Diego, as well as in many private and corporate collections. (More info at