Who Goes With What: Eames/Joe Brainard

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Continuing an occasional feature, in which we pair classics of design with their counterparts in poetry and literature.

If you like the designs of Charles and Ray Eames–and who doesn’t?–I bet you’ll love artist and writer Joe Brainard. The correlation isn’t perfect: Joe Brainard was more than 30 years younger than the Eameses, and while they set up shop in Los Angeles, he was a transplanted New Yorker (think heart transplant). And their modes of production were dissimilar too: the Eameses were into mass production, while Joe Brainard was decidedly small-scale, fashioning collages and comic books by hand, making art for and with his many friends (among them art-and-letters stars like Frank O’Hara, Ron Padgett, Ted Berrigan, Kenward Elmslie, Andy Warhol, John Ashbery, Jasper Johns, and many others), and writing about the crucial minutiae of his life, as in the brilliant and modest I Remember.

But what the Eameses and Joe Brainard did have in common was that they all brought to the country, at different times, on different coasts, exactly that: brilliance with modesty, a sorely needed sensibility of grace without pretention, what Joe Brainard’s friend and executor Ron Padgett calls, writing of Joe, “living a life that showed the generosity, pleasure, and flawless taste that are characteristic of his art.”

I never met Joe Brainard–he died of AIDS-induced pneumonia in 1994, just a couple of weeks before I too fled to New York as to a lifeboat–but luckily for me, he left a tattered, entire city behind for me to amble through, and lots of work for me to enjoy. Here’s just a taste, all from New Work (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1973):


oh, I don’t know.



I say “Well, I guess I should be going” and nothing happens.



Art to me is like walking down a street with someone and saying
“Don’t you love that building?” (Too.)

There’s plenty more where that came from. Start at the official Joe Brainard site http://www.joebrainard.org, and also check out Ron Padgett’s biography Joe and the short film I Remember (produced by Paul Auster). And finally, sage advice for all People of the World: Relax!


Photo credits: Eames chair, Circa 1950.com; Carte Postale by Joe Brainard, http://www.joebrainard.org

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