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Why Joe Brainard still matters— Jonathan Anderson of Loewe pays homage to the late collagist and poet

A Joe Brainard Show in a Book from Loewe Gareth Harris

The late artist and writer Joe Brainard (1942-1994)—a master of collage and découpage as well as a poignant poet— has slipped under the radar in recent times. Brainard died of Aids-related pneumonia at the age of 52, garnering a tribute in the New York Times from esteemed critic Roberta Smith who described him as an “artist, writer, set designer and frequent collaborator with the New York School poets”. Now Brainard is rightly undergoing something of a renaissance thanks to Jonathan Anderson, the creative director of Loewe. Under Anderson’s arty eye, the Madrid-based luxury brand has produced a homage in book form to the conceptual trailblazer who filtered popular culture through an irreverent, intelligent lens.

The hardback monograph called A Show in a Book (M/M) features a selection of comics, printed matter and texts Brainard created in the 1960s and 1970s (a highlight is Cigarette Butt Drawings by Léger, Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning and Brainard, the playful hand behind all of the smoky sketches). The publication, a visual treat, is held together by a monogrammed bookstrap which entwines a giant fold-out cloth dust jacket emblazoned with Brainard’s 1967 collage Untitled (Bow).

Two sewn booklets niftily slotted in the folds of the jacket present the men’s 2021 runway and women’s precollections from Loewe, which also look to Brainard (we love the pansy motif). Critic Éric Troncy sums up why Brainard still appeals in a masterly opening essay, saying: “It is possible that Brainard inspires in us the memory… of the (romantic) idea of an artist, an ideal belied by the art world today where young artists are more business executives.” Proceeds from the book, due to be published in June, will go towards Visual Aids, an organisation which supports artists living with HIV.