Robert Branaman was born in 1933 in Wichita, Kansas. After attending Wichita State University, he joined several friends in what is now known as the “Wichita Vortex,” that took Bruce Conner, William Burroughs, Stan Brakhage, amongst others, to San Francisco in the late 1950s. Branaman cultivated a style of arranging words and images on film, canvas, and paper, and collaborated with Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, among many others. Branaman exhibited at the legendary Batman Gallery in the early 1960s and was a member of Bruce Conner’s Rat Bastard Protective Association.
A raw, open eroticism runs through Branaman’s work, an insistence on wedding the sacred to the profane. “Take a mad genius with brush and canvas, place him in the mythical not-yet world of William Blake, multiply him by a hundred, and you get some idea of the paintings and drawings of Robert Branaman,” Dean Wallace of the San Francisco Chronicle said of Branaman’s 1964 show at Batman Gallery. Branaman later developed a series of figurative paintings described by Knute Stiles in Artforum, as featuring faces “split like a half moon over a full moon, or a side view over a front face, both sharing the same eyes, nose and mouth, perhaps expressing male and female unity, or perhaps symbolizing the splitting of personality.”