View of “Bob Branaman,” 2017. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Bob Branaman

Karma International | Los Angeles

View of “Bob Branaman,” 2017. Photo: Jeff McLane.

The Beat poet and playwright Michael McClure once remarked that to be an artist in the 1950s “was to be an outlaw. . . . They were ready to put you in jail.” Just ask LA-based artist, filmmaker, and poet Bob Branaman, who was first introduced to art while serving a stint in juvie way back in Kansas. Judging from this packed, polyphonic, decades-spanning exhibition of paintings, assemblages, handmade books, and ephemera, clearly something must have clicked there. A night or two in the Wichita clink was a rite of passage for an Eisenhower-era head full of jazz, bennies, and reefers. So was bailing for the Bay Area at the age of twenty-six.

By the time Branaman arrived in San Francisco—in 1959, after art classes in Guadalajara, and a month spent dropping peyote in Big Sur with Joan and William “Billy Batman” Jahrmarkt (of the short-lived but influential Batman Gallery)—his

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