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Joe Brainard's Queer Seriousness, or, How to Make Fun out of the Avant-Garde

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This essay focuses upon the work of U.S. artist Joe Brainard and his association with the New York School of Poetry, most notably Frank O'Hara. The discussion of this work is undertaken in order to consider what might constitute a 'queerly serious' address to questions of meaning and value. The work of the New York School poets and of selected second generation New York artists has often been taken as falling short of an avowedly 'serious' model of poetic and artistic practice; one which is heavily identified with the values of conventional heterosexual masculinity. But rather than simply falling in line with such criticism – and dismissing such work as effete, if not homosexual – this essay asks how work such as Brainard's might make us rethink such a 'straight' judgemental attitude by presenting us with a decidedly queer approach to serious subject matter and earnest forms of expression. What might constitute a perverse valorisation of the deeply serious? And how might it be possible to make fun out of the serious business of avant-garde art production?

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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