Brainard’s visual art, which ranges from painting to collage to drawing, is often situated in the ephemeral; he engaged popular culture with wit as well as a classical attention to light. His work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Brainard published more than a dozen books, including the lyrical prose-poem memoir series I Remember (1975) and The Nancy Book (2008), which contains 15 years’ worth of his artworks and collaborations incorporating Ernie Bushmiller’s classic comic strip character, Nancy. In a review of The Nancy Book, the New Yorker observed, “Brash but never bratty, fanciful without descending into preciousness, Brainard demonstrates a visual perfect-pitch equivalent to that of his miniaturist memoir-poem ‘I Remember.’”
Brainard died of AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 52.