Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Joe Brainard Archive
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0005
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
32.2 Linear feet
(8 archives boxes, 59 art bin items and 88 oversize folders)
Date (inclusive): 1960 - 1992
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
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 several lithographs
by Alex Katz (b. 1927), 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.
Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994
Scope and Content of Collection
Accession Processed in 1987
The Joe Brainard Archive contains approximately 300 examples of Brainard's art work as well as book and cover illustrations,
manuscripts, and published writings, all dating from ca. 1960 to 1979. 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. The collection also includes several art works and many books by other notable artists
and writers. These materials have been arranged in five series: 1) ARTWORK, 2) MANUSCRIPTS, 3) CORRESPONDENCE, 4) CATALOGS,
and 5) BIBLIOGRAPHIES.
SERIES 1: ARTWORK
This series comprises 161 pieces of Brainard's graphic art and another 20 pieces, most by Alex Katz. Reflecting the many styles,
dimensions, and media with which Brainard experimented during his career, these works include collages (including many of
the miniatures Brainard constructed for a show of his in work in 1975), oil and watercolor abstractions, graphite portraits
of several well known writers, original cover art for books by Ted Berrigan and John Ashbery, and the original art work for
numerous "comic strips" done in collaboration with various writers.
SERIES 2: MANUSCRIPTS
The MANUSCRIPTS series, arranged chronologically, includes the notebooks and original manuscripts for nine books of writing
by Brainard. Several manuscripts by Ted Berrigan, Tom Clark, Philip Gambone, and Rudy Kikel are also included.
SERIES 3: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series consists primarily of letters from Joe Brainard to Robert Butts. In addition, there are letters
from Ned Rorem and Virgil Thomson to Brainard, and letters from Ron Padgett, John Giorno, Larry Fagin, and others to Robert
SERIES 4: CATALOGS
Catalogs for Brainard and Alex Katz exhibitions comprise the CATALOGS series. Also included are numerous reviews of Katz's
SERIES 5: BIBLIOGRAPHIES
Various checklists constructed by Robert Butts and documenting Brainard's production since 1961 are contained in series five,
Books and journals 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."
Accessions Processed in 1991
The accessions to the Joe Brainard Archive processed in 1991 contain originals of artwork by Joe Brainard for collaborations
with Bill Berkson and Kenward Elmslie, and correspondence related to Robert Butts' projects. The materials are arranged in
four series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) ARTWORK, 3) MANUSCRIPTS, and 4) PHOTOGRAPHS.
SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series includes letters from Bill Berkson to Robert Butts concerning publication of his book "Serenade"
and correspondence from Joe Brainard. The materials date between 1986 and 1987 and are organized alphabetically by correspondent.
SERIES 2: ARTWORK
The ARTWORK series contains original drawings by Joe Brainard for three collaborative works with Bill Berkson and
The Baby Book with Kenward Elmslie. Also included are original art by Brainard for miscellaneous poetry readings and flyers. The materials
are arranged alphabetically by title.
SERIES 3: MANUSCRIPTS
The MANUSCRIPTS series contains photocopies of proofs for Bill Berkson's "Cnidus, August 4th."
SERIES 4: PHOTOGRAPHS
An excellent portrait of Joe Brainard by photographer Elizabeth Hathon is located in the PHOTOGRAPHS series. Also included
are color transparencies of an eight-piece exhibit entitled "The Gang of Eight."
Accession Processed in 1993
The 1993 accession of the Joe Brainard Archive comprises 16 letters and postcards from Joe Brainard to Robert Butts, most
of which are birthday or holiday greetings. Also included is a print by Andy Warhol.
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.
Joe Brainard Archive, MSS 5. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Joe Brainard Letters (MSS 703), Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Berkson, Bill -- Correspondence
Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Archives
Brainard, Joe, 1942-1994 -- Correspondence
Butts, Robert, 1952-
Clark, Tom, 1941-
Fagin, Larry -- Correspondence
Greenwald, Ted -- Correspondence
Katz, Alex, 1927-
Kikel, Rudy, 1943-
Padgett, Ron, 1942- -- Correspondence
Thomson, Virgil, 1896-1989 -- Correspondence
American poetry -- 20th century
Cartoons -- United States -- 20th century
Collages -- 1960-1969
Collages -- 1970-1979
Gay men -- United States -- Biography
Gay men -- United States -- Poetry
Gay men in art
Lithographs -- 1960-1969
Lithographs -- 1970-1979
Oil paintings -- 1960-1969
Oil paintings -- 1979-1979
Photographs -- 1964-1990
Prose poems, American
Watercolor drawings -- 1960-1969
Watercolor drawings -- 1970-1979