Radical Detachment

Linda Besemer's Subversive Abstraction

Linda Besemer speaking at the Kleefeld Contemporary, 2022. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.


A 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, Los Angeles-based artist Linda Besemer (she/they) has been pushing the limits of painting since the early 1990s. The "detachables," as Besemer calls them, are works created from the 1990s and into the 2000s that comprise a host of forms and methods but all share a remarkable element of construction: the absence of any underlying surface. The present lot, Fold #19, is among Besemer's earliest "fold" paintings; in this series, Besemer applied paint to a surface and then peeled it away for a flexible painting that could then be hung over a supporting rod.

Reflecting on Besemer's 2022 retrospective, StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch at the Kleefeld Contemporary, critic Christopher Knight noted, "This is painting as paint, nothing more, which opened up a surprisingly complex set of considerations." For Besemer, those questions relate both to the history of abstract art as well as broader considerations of gender and binary modes. As the Kleefeld Contemporary exhibition text put it, the paintings become "disengaged from underlying discourse about systemic patriarchal inequities equated with the figure/ground binary." In their most recent work, Besemer has integrated the digital glitch into their probing of painting's subversive possibilities, asking "is a glitch an unremarkable disruption of digital programming, or can it be a formal catalyst for critical and political intervention?"

Besemer is represented by Vielmetter Los Angeles and has works in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.