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Joe Brainard (1942-1994) was born in Salem, Arkansas and grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He showed artistic talent from an early age. In high school he co-edited The White Dove Review, an art and literary magazine, with poets Ron Padgett and Dick Gallup. After high school and a few months of study at the Dayton Art Institute, Brainard moved to New York City in early 1961, joining Padgett and poet Ted Berrigan. In New York, Brainard focused his energy on painting and assemblage. He worked at a furious pace, showing the influences of Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Joseph Cornell in his early work. By 1965, the Alan Gallery presented his first solo show, a forerunner to group exhibitions around the country and abroad. His theater work included set designs for LeRoi Jones's The Dutchman and Frank O'Hara's The General Returns from One Place to Another, as well as sets and costumes for the Louis Falco Dance troupe and the Joffrey Ballet Company.
Brainard befriended and collaborated with many writers and artists associated with the New York School scene, including John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenward Elmslie, and Fairfield Porter. He designed covers for poetry books and magazines; illustrated C Comics and C Comics 2, engaged in collaborations with contemporary poets; and with Ted Berrigan's encouragement, started to write his own material, including the celebrated I Remember. The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard, edited by Ron Padgett and with an introduction by Paul Auster, was published by The Library of America in 2012. Brainard's drawings, collages, assemblages, and paintings are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Joe Brainard Archive at the University of California-San Diego, among other institutions.