Malanga was born in the Bronx in 1943, the only child of Italian immigrant parents. In 1959, at the beginning of his senior year at the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan, Malanga became a regular on Alan Freed's The Big Beat, televised on Channel 5 (WNEW) in New York City. He graduated from high school with a major in Advertising Design (1960). He was introduced to poetry by his senior class English teacher, poet Daisy Aldan, who had a profound influence on his life and work from then on. He enrolled at the University of Cincinnati's College of Art & Design (1960), and was mentored by the poet, Richard Eberhart who was the university's resident poet for 1961. He dropped out at the end of the Spring semester. In the fall of 1961, Malanga was admitted to Wagner College in Staten Island on a fellowship anonymously donated for the express purpose of advancing his creative abilities as a poet and artist. At Wagner he befriended one of his English professors, Willard Maas, and his wife Marie Menken, who became his mentors. In June 1963, he went to work for Andy Warhol as "a summer job that lasted seven years," as he likes to put it. Malanga dropped out of Wagner College in 1964, freeing him up to work for Warhol full-time.
Gerard Malanga worked closely for Andy Warhol during Warhol's most creative period, from 1963 to 1970. A February 17, 1992 article in The New York Times referred to him as "Andy Warhol's most important associate."
Malanga was involved in all phases of Warhol's creative output in silkscreen painting and filmmaking. He acted in many of the early Warhol films, including Kiss (1963), Harlot (1964), Soap Opera (1964), Couch (1964), Vinyl (1965), Camp (1965), Chelsea Girls (1966); and co-produced Bufferin (1967) in which he reads his poetry, deemed to be the longest spoken-word movie on record at 33-minutes nonstop. Malanga played a combination of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby in Warhol's film Since (1966). Also in 1966, he choreographed the music of the Velvet Underground for Warhol's multimedia presentation, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. In 1969, Malanga was one of the founding editors, along with Warhol and John Wilcock, of Interview magazine. In December 1970, Malanga left Warhol's studio to pursue his work in photography.
Malanga and Warhol collaborated on the nearly five-hundred individual 3-minute "Screen Tests," which resulted in a selection for a book of the same name, published by Kulchur Press, in 1967. It should be noted that neither Warhol or Malanga were photographers at the time. Thus, by virtue of their collaboration with the motion picture medium, creating in what amounted to post-photographs, they became professional photographers.
Malanga's photography spans over four decades and encompasses portraits, nudes and the urban documentation of "New York's Changing Scene," a phrase which he adapted from Margot Gayle, an architectural historian and advocate, whose Sunday News column of the same name had a direct bearing on the development of his photographic eye.
Malanga has always sought someone who was rarely photographed or placed in situations and surroundings unique to the pictures he was shooting. Within the first six years of taking pictures he managed to create three of the most prominent portraits of post-modern photography: Charles Olson for the interview he made with Olson for The Paris Review (1969); Iggy Pop nude in the penthouse apartment they shared one summer weekend (1971); and William Burroughs in front of the corporate headquarters that bears his family name (1975). All in all, he has photographed and archived hundreds of poets and artists over the years. He is also a photographer of a number of firsts, including Herbert Gericke, the last farmer of Staten Island (1981); and Jack Kerouac's typewritten roll for On the Road (1983).
In his introduction to Malanga's first monograph, Resistance to Memory (Arena Editions, 1998), Ben Maddow, distinguished photo historian and poet had this to say: "Malanga has that great essential virtue of the photographer: humility before the complex splendor of the real thing… Malanga is the photo-historian of this culture."
In reviewing Malanga's groundbreaking book two years later, Screen Tests Portraits Nudes 1964-1996 (Steidl), Fred McDarrah remarked that "Malanga is among the elite editors and photographers who have long dazzled and propelled the New York avant garde."
During the course of his years working with Warhol and after, Malanga shot and produced twelve films of his own. His personal archive contains still and motion-picture records of life at The Factory.
"Now and again a poet is found who is a complex of many capabilities and patterns, all relating but none so isolating in its practice that the one is lost to the other. I have marveled for years at Gerard Malanga's articulate endurance as a poet—and also as a photographer of singular power. He has moved with deftness and great authority in the various worlds of art and pop, and never lost either his wits or his footing. In short, he reminds me as do few others of what poets might be in a common world if only they could or would." —Robert Creeley
"These obit-elegies are among the best poems in the canons of contemporary world literature. They bring the reader up close and personal into the persons and places of Gerard Malanga's unique and life-long creative visionary gift. They are wonderful portraits of those many great talents he knew and respected. A true poet." —Charles Plymell
"As he rounds the corner of his seventies, Gerard Malanga’s new poems are steeped in a past that is intricately present. Figures and scenes from his overlapping lives—poet, photographer, dancer, man-about-town—press on him, and bring along the light in the room, the street, the trees, and any questions that remain. It’s all one poem, a kind of architecture of memory, as past and present commingle to “whisper sweet nothings,” the moving song of a pivotal cross-cultural figure." —Aram Saroyan
"Sometimes you dream that there’s someone you love who loves you… you wake up & for a few minutes you know that somewhere there’s someone you love who loves you… & then you wake up into being awake. Gerard’s poems are like that…" —Peter Lamborn WilsonScreen Tests: A Diary (with Andy Warhol) (1967)
The Last Benedetta Poems (1969)
Gerard Malanga Selbsporträt eines Dichters (1970)
10 Poems for 10 Poets Black Sparrow Press (1970)
chic death (1971)
Wheels of Light (1972)
The Poetry of Night, Dawn and Dream/Nine Poems for César Vallejo (1972)
Licht/Light (1973, bilingual)
Incarnations: Poems 1965-1971 (1974)
Leaping Over Gravestones (1976)
Ten Years After: The Selected Benedetta Poems (1977)
100 years have passed (1978)
This Will Kill That (1983)
Three Diamonds Black Sparrow Press (1991)
Mythologies of the Heart, Black Sparrow Press (1996)
No Respect: New & Selected Poems 1964-2000, Black Sparrow Press (2001)
AM: Archives Malanga, Volumes 1, 2, 3 & 4 (2011)
Three Broadside Poems, Bottle of Smoke Press, (2013)
Malanga Chasing Vallejo: Selected Poems: Cesar Vallejo: New Translations and Notes: Gerard Malanga. Three Rooms Press, Bilingual edition (2014)
Tomboy & Other Tales, Bottle of Smoke Press, (2014)
Whisper Sweet Nothings & Other Poems, Bottle of Smoke Press, (2017)
The Brief Hidden Life of Angus MacLise
The Collected Poetry of Piero Heliczer
Screen Tests/A Diary, in collaboration with Andy Warhol (1967)
Six Portraits (1975)
Portrait: Theory (With Robert Mapplethorpe, David Attie, and others) (1981)
Autobiography of a Sex Thief (1985)
Good Girls (1994)
Seizing the Moment (1997)
Resistance to Memory (1998)
Screen Tests Portraits Nudes 1964-1996 (2000)
Someone's Life (2008)
Photobooths (Waverly Press, NYC, 2013)
Ghostly Berms (Waverly Press, NYC, 2013)
Long Day's Journey into the Past
Gunnar B. Kvaran speaks with Gerard Malanga (2008)
Gerard Malanga by Lars Movin (2011)
Academy Leader (1964)
Andy Warhol: Portraits of the Artist as a Young Man (1965)
Prelude to International Velvet Debutante (1966)
Portrait of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (1966). World premiere: Vienna International Film Festival, 2005.
In Search of the Miraculous (1967)
The Recording Zone Operator (1968, incomplete)
The filmmaker records a portion of his life in the month of August (1968)
Preraphaelite Dream (with music by Angus MacLise, 1968)
The Children (AFI grant with music by Angus MacLise, 1969)
April Diary (1970)
Vision (incorporating Bufferin, 1976)
Gerard Malanga's Film Notebooks, with music by Angus MacLise (2005). World premiere: Vienna International Film Festival, 2005.