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Brainard (Joe) Archive
MSS 0005  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Publication Rights
  • Related Materials

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Joe Brainard Archive
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0005
    Physical Description: 5.5 Linear feet (7 archives boxes, 1 shoe box, 2 flat boxes, 50 art bin items, and 18 map case folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1960-1992
    Abstract: Materials collected by Robert Butts, consisting primarily of diverse works by and regarding New York artist and writer Joe Brainard (1942-1994).

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Materials collected by Robert Butts, consisting primarily of diverse works by and regarding New York artist and writer Joe Brainard (1942-1994). The Joe Brainard Archive consists of numerous examples of Brainard's graphic work dating from 1962 to 1979, most of the books illustrated by Brainard, all of Brainard's manuscripts and published writings, notebooks for Brainard's I Remember series and several other books, Brainard's correspondence with members of the Butts family and correspondence to Brainard from Ned Rorem and Virgil Thomson, checklists of Brainard's artistic production constructed by Robert Butts, and a selection of articles devoted to Brainard's career. In addition to the Brainard materials, the Archive also includes an oil painting by Tom Clark, and a few ink sketches by poets Ron Padgett and Allen Ginsberg. There are also manuscripts of Ted Berrigan, Tom Clark and Rudy Kikel, in addition to broadsides and books written by New York School writers such as John Ashbery, Edwin Denby, and Kenneth Koch. Primarily a study collection, the importance of the Joe Brainard Archive is in documenting the wide range, topical as well as technical, of Joe Brainard's artistic production over a twenty-year period, ca. 1960-1979.
    Accession Processed in 1987: This portion of the collection contains many examples of Brainard's artwork as well as book and cover illustrations, manuscripts, and published writings, all dating from ca. 1960 to 1979. It also includes original art and documentation by and of other notable artists and writers.
    Arranged in five series: 1) ARTWORK, 2) MANUSCRIPTS, 3) CORRESPONDENCE, 4) CATALOGS, and 5) BIBLIOGRAPHIES.
    Accessions Processed in 1991, 1993: Portions of the Joe Brainard Archive processed in 1991 and 1993 contain originals of artwork by Joe Brainard for collaborations with Bill Berkson and Kenward Elmslie, and correspondence related to Robert Butts' projects.
    Arranged in four series: 6) CORRESPONDENCE, 7) ARTWORK, 8) MANUSCRIPTS, and 9) PHOTOGRAPHS.


    Born in Arkansas in 1942 and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Brainard moved to New York City in 1961. There, he quickly developed friendships with Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, Bill Berkson, Barbara Guest, and other participants in the New York School. The large number of collaborative works in the collection, as well as the many illustrations Brainard did for books by others, reflect the sense of community shared by these artists.
    Brainard's achievement, however, is remarkable quite aside from his many associations. Brainard harmonized linguistic and visual materials in extraordinary ways. His graphic work is notably literary, often incorporating words and sentences into non-literary designs. Such qualities prompted Frank O'Hara to say that Brainard's work had "nothing to do with philosophy, it's all art." Both the art work and writing is full of information and frequently takes erotic and semiotic risks. In one of his more scandalous serial works, Brainard subjected Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy to every imaginable erotic and high art situation.
    A prolific artist, Brainard's work has been exhibited extensively in the New York City area since the early 1960s. His first retrospective show, consisting of work from 1960-1970, took place at the Phyllis Kind Gallery in Chicago in 1970. In the mid-1970s he created over 3,000 miniature collages, paintings, and drawings for a major show at the Fischbach Gallery in Manhattan. The materials gathered in the Joe Brainard Archive were first exhibited at the Long Beach Museum of Art in 1980. In 1986 they were again exhibited at UCSD.
    Like Joe Brainard, Alex Katz is a New York City artist. He has given numerous solo shows since the early 1960s, and many of his works have been added to numerous public art collections throughout the country. Unlike Brainard, Katz has created a depthless, planar art which strips the visual image of its narrative, literary aura. The result, as one critic has noted, is an image of a reality that is of no consequence.

    Preferred Citation

    Joe Brainard Archive. MSS 5. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1984-1993.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Related Materials

    Joe Brainard Letters. MSS 703. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
    Books, journals and some artworks received in the 1984 accession of the Joe Brainard Archive have been separated from the collection and added elsewhere to the library's holdings. To identify and list these items, conduct an author search in ROGER on the term "Butts, Robert, 1952- former owner."

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Oil paintings -- 1979-1979
    American poetry -- 20th century
    Watercolor drawings -- 1970-1979
    Watercolor drawings -- 1960-1969
    Lithographs -- 1960-1969
    Gays' writings
    Cartoons -- United States -- 20th century
    Photographs -- 1964-1990
    Prose poems, American
    Gay men in art
    Gay men -- United States -- Biography
    Gay men -- United States -- Poetry
    Oil paintings -- 1960-1969
    Collages -- 1970-1979
    Collages -- 1960-1969
    Lithographs -- 1970-1979
    Berrigan, Ted
    Clark, Tom, 1941-
    Greenwald, Ted -- Correspondence
    Butts, Robert, 1952-
    Thomson, Virgil, 1896-1989 -- Correspondence
    Berkson, Bill -- Correspondence
    Katz, Alex
    Kikel, Rudy, 1942-2017
    Fagin, Larry -- Correspondence
    Padgett, Ron, 1942- -- Correspondence
    Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Archives
    Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Correspondence