Linda Besemer, Tony’s Painting (2013). Acrylic paint mounted on aluminum cleat, 60 x 120 inches. ©Linda Besemer. Courtesy of Antony Unruh and Trish Boyer. Photograph by Fredrik Nilsen Studio.

Museum announces upcoming exhibitions that will launch expanded arts complex

Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum presents StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch, the first monographic survey of artworks by Los Angeles-based artist Linda Besemer. This exhibition emphasizes Besemer’s ongoing commitment to exploring alterity through conscious “othering” of abstraction and reflects upon the artist’s search for new meaning in painting over the past thirty-five years. Featuring over twenty works produced between 1993–2021, the exhibition showcases key moments in Besemer’s career, taking visitors on a journey through the material and conceptual evolution of their practice across many different modes of operation and distinct series. Touching first on early gestural oil paintings and traversing highly experimental acrylic compositions, the exhibition culminates with their most recent glitch works. Curated by Kristina Newhouse, the exhibition will be on view from February 12 to June 25, 2022.

Besemer’s painstakingly built works defy expectations. Meticulously painted from a bright palette, their paintings offer surprises and vivid optical illusions. The artist refers to works from their stroke, roll, and fold series as “acrylic paint bodies,” since the layered compositions are at once painterly and sculptural.

First, hand painted on plate glass and then peeled away, these works capture gestures themselves, and freed from their canvas ground, they challenge convention. Besemer’s earliest and latest produced works—their dissymmetric paintings and glitches, respectively—test conceptions of painting in their own way, despite being painted on stretched canvas.

Linda Besemer, Lil’ Hurricane, 2009. Cast acrylic paint, 10.6 x 7.09 x 2.6 inches. ©Linda Besemer. CNC routed by Gregory Kucera. Courtesy of Jean-Luc Richard and Takako Richard. Photograph by Jean-Luc Richard.

Conceptualizing abstraction as a place like no other in culture, Besemer asserts that in this space she, as gender nonbinary, overcomes the “inequities of language and subjectivity.” Through the late 1990s into the 2000s, she experimented with their rolls, folds, zips, and sheets series—the work for which she would become best known. These “bodies” exist as novel presentations; the artist’s distinctive stripes, grids, and curves “negotiate architectural and sculptural spaces” as they wrap around spindles, drape over rods, and hang like tapestries on mounted on cleats. The slabs series goes a step further to create dimensional sculpture by pouring multicolored acrylic paint into sedimentary layers and carving the dried blocks into undulating curvilinear shapes.

Referred to as “detachables” by Besemer, all these works are intended to subvert the hierarchical dichotomies of active/passive, masculine/feminine and subject/object that had been at the fore of critical discourse about painting. She seeks to break free from the limitations of feminist critiques, which linked the “figure/ground binary [with] the underlying hierarchical inequities of patriarchy.” Instead, being confined within this framework, the artist opted to “eliminate, or confuse, the figure/ground binary” altogether through their development of these paint-based multi-dimensional works.

The glitch paintings imagine a space that is endless and moves in a million different directions. Even though they are still contained by a Cartesian frame these paintings and their spaces are unfamiliar. They are not grounded in the gravity of a Renaissance fixed perspective, but rather open up the two dimensional plane with a new expansive spatial awareness. –Linda Besemer

In Besemer’s recent body of work—the glitch series—the artist creates a new space of meaning beyond the horizontal, vertical, diagonal movement of their earlier work. She uses the 3D animation program Maya as a basis for this series, collecting generated errors and errant effects from the failed rendering of curves, bulges, and other abstract geometric forms. From the resulting digital images, she collages new compositions for their hand-colored paintings. Besemer commented how the spatial relationship within these works on canvas relate to their earlier works, asserting that “the glitches unground the traditional space of a painting through the glitch itself—imagery that comes from the abstract language of the computer.”

Bugaboo, 2021. Acrylic on canvas over panel, 15 x 18 inches. ©Linda Besemer. Photograph by Brica Wilcox. Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.

In the artist’s words, the glitch works are meant “to abstract the abstract,” to make painting itself new again by transforming digital modes into analog strokes. The works themselves appear to be digitally produced at first glance, but evident brushwork within the works reveal their true handmade quality. Besemer’s pictorial space is rife with the tension of dissolution and re- materialization inherent in this new process. The artist’s mind-bending abstractions harness a striking power from dimensional gradients and conceptual complexity. Curves, lines, blips, buzzes, and swaths of saturated color invite viewers to lose themselves in an electrifying visual matrix.

Linda Besemer is enthusiastic about this new phase of their career, ever-interested by technology-aided approach to abstract painting. She shared, “With the glitches, mistakes are not relegated to the background. Instead, they become elevated—these failures, these errors come to the forefront to create this endless array of self-referential imagery, always returning to abstraction—the abstract language of the computer within freedom of cyberspace.

Through the exhibition’s title StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch, Besemer makes a direct reference to the material forms their works have taken since the 1990s. By encompassing their artistic production in one word, she proposes a timeline with neither a distinction between past, present, and future, nor any kind of material hierarchy. This naming device comes to the visual arts via the indeterminacy of poetry employed to allow the reader to make their own decisions about the text. Like Besemer’s visual abstraction, the title resists normalization. In doing so, StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch opens the possibility for everyone to think about what else abstraction can be, appear to be, and become. The title, like the exhibition itself, reflects Besemer’s continual innovation via exploratory abstraction, a practice of embracing processes laden with expansive possibilities and metaphorical multiplicities that probe identity and otherness.

Linda Besemer: StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch is accompanied by a 92-page full color catalogue designed by Amy McFarland of Clean{Slate}Design, with essays from Director Paul Baker Prindle, curator Kristina Newhouse, and leading LGBTQ+ scholar Lex Morgan Lancaster, author of the upcoming Duke University Press publication, Dragging Away: Queer Abstraction in Contemporary Art.

Related Event
February 16, 2022, noon | Main Gallery | FREE
Artist talk and exhibition walk-through: Linda Besemer
Join us for an insightful artist tour of StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch. Besemer will guide visitors through decades of their work, detailing a search for new meaning in painting through many modes of operation.

StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch was made possible by support from the Cal State Long Beach Associated Students, Inc. Instructionally Related Activities fund, Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum Board of Advisors, Constance W. Glenn Endowment, William R. Svec Endowment, Elizabeth & Charles Brooks Endowment, Pasadena Art Alliance, and an anonymous donor.

About Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum
Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum is a community of people who examine, critique, and create contemporary art and culture. The Museum hosts exhibitions and projects that serve students, campus communities and the public, working to build accessible educational opportunities around art and art making. Its recently completed renovation completely redesigned the Museum transforming it into an 11,000 square foot arts complex to. Re-opening to the public on February 12, 2022, several new exhibitions and public spaces allow the Museum to better serve visitors with more accessible upgraded facilities. As one of the few museums in the Greater Long Beach/Los Angeles area with free admission, inclusive policies and multi-use spaces make the new and improved Museum welcoming for everyone.

Upcoming Exhibitions include Linda Besemer: StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch (February 12–June 25, 2022) in the Main Gallery; Rita Letendre: Eternal Space (February 12–March 26, 2022) in the Mini Gallery; Hung Viet Nguyen: Sacred Path (February 12–May 7, 2022) in the Community Gallery; Mark Bradford: Lithographs (February 12–March 26, 2022) in the David Campagna Prints and Drawings Room; and Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld: In-Between the Silence (February 12–June 25, 2022) in the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Gallery.

Guided by its mission and vision, the Museum strives to be known as a learning community that explores abstraction, material innovation, and arts integration through the practices of artists of difference and a larger array of artists who help define the contemporary moment.