Although born in Salem, Arkansas, Joe Brainard grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, he befriended a couple fellow artists, the poets Ron Padgett and Dick Gallup, and through them he met Ted Berrigan and Patricia Mitchell, both graduate students at the University of Tulsa at the time. Throughout his career, Brainard would collaborate with poets regularly. After graduating from the Dayton Art Institute, where he got a full scholarship, Brainard moved to New York City in early 1961. His first breakthrough came in 1964, when Larry Rivers chose him as a companion artist for a show. Within a short period of time following that, Brainard's art was appearing in the Alan Gallery, the Landau-Alan Gallery, and the Fischbach Gallery. His theater work included set designs for Frank O’Hara as well as LeRoi Jones, the Louis Falco Dance Troupe, and the Joffrey Ballet Company. He also designed covers for a great number of poetry books and magazines, and collaborated with a number of poets on a series of comic strips, collected in C Comics and C Comics 2. His memoir, I Remember, is unique in its construction, arranged with no sense of linear chronology and consisting entirely of moments from his life, each beginning with the words "I remember." Georges Perec wrote a tribute to the work, and the form is still often used in writing workshops, and as a method of introducing children to poetry. His work remains in collections in 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. He was 52 when he died.

Most artists are very straight, straight in their seriousness and in what they are trying to do. I think I’m a lot more sensual, a lot more ga-ga than that… – Joe Brainard
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