Kleefeld Art Museum to re-open with queer, gay artists’ exhibits

Kleefeld Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach, which has undergone an ambitious renovation and expansion, will open next month with exhibits by two important and influential abstract artists: Linda Besemer, who identifies as queer, and Mark Bradford, who identifies as gay.

The Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, formerly the University Art Museum, will feature a major retrospective of Besemer, and two lithographs from Bradford when it re-opens Feb. 12.

Expanded museum

Visitors to the Kleefeld Art Museum, university students and the public, will experience more art, more programming, and more resources.

The facade and roof — with its triangular points — is influenced by The Walter Pyramid, the university’s indoor sports arena.

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The Kleefeld Art Museum renovations add 4,000 square feet, more than doubling the exhibit space.

Most of that space, 3,000 square feet, is dedicated to the museum’s Main Gallery, which has moveable walls, allowing multiple shows at a time.

In total, the art museum is 11,000 square feet and includes several new features: outdoor gardens and seating areas, a state-of-the-art education laboratory, a reading and archives room, office spaces, a retail shop, a temperature-controlled storage vault, and three permanent gallery spaces.

Artist Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld donated $10 million to help fund the art museum’s expansion and renovation and gifted 160 of her works to the museum’s permanent collection.

Linda Besemer CSULB Cal State Long Beach

“Bugaboo” by Linda Besemer will be displayed in the retrospective “Linda Besemer: StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch” at Cal State Long Beach’s Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, when it reopens Feb. 12. Photo: Brica Wilcox

Linda Besemer exhibit

​​“Linda Besemer: StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch” will be featured inside the Main Gallery and showcase abstract paintings by the Los Angeles artist, who identifies as gender nonbinary and uses the pronouns she and they. Besemer has taught painting and drawing at Occidental College since 1987.

Besemer paints from a bright palette, creating vivid optical illusions.

Spanning almost 30 years, the retrospective, which will run through June 25, is the first survey of Besemer’s works. It emphasizes Besemer’s ongoing commitment to exploring various forms of abstraction and her search for new meaning in painting over the past 35 years.

Featuring 23 works produced between 1993 and 2021, “Linda Besemer: StrokeRollFoldSheetSlabGlitch” will showcase key moments in Besemer’s career, starting with early traditional abstraction and culminating with their most recent “glitch” series.

The “glitch” works are meant “to abstract the abstract,” to make painting itself new again by transforming digital modes into analog strokes. Besemer creates a new space of meaning beyond the horizontal, vertical, diagonal movement of her earlier work.

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Mark Bradford exhibit

“Mark Bradford: Lithographs” will be on view from Feb. 12 to March 26 in the David Campagna Drawings and Prints Room.

The exhibition spotlights two works from the early 2000s, the dawning of Bradford’s career.

Bradford, 61, is known for his large-scale abstract pieces created from paper. His work is rooted in his understanding that all materials and techniques have symbolic meaning that precedes their artistic utility.

Bradford’s signature style developed out of his early experimentation with end papers, the small, translucent tissue papers used in hairdressing, which he discovered while working as a hair stylist in his mom’s beauty salon in Leimert Park.

Characterized by its layered formal, material, and conceptual complexity, Bradford’s work explores social and political structures, such as racism and HIV/AIDS, that objectify marginalized communities and the bodies of vulnerable populations.

Bradford also has worked with other types of paper, including maps, billboards, movie posters, comic books, and “merchant posters” that advertise predatory services in economically distressed neighborhoods.

In 2006, Bradford created “Scorched Earth” and “Black Wall Street,” based on the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.

In 2015, Bradford received his first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles, “Scorched Earth” at the Hammer Museum, and that same year co-founded Art + Practice in Leimert Park with his longtime partner, Allan DiCastro, and philanthropist and art collector Eileen Harris Norton, who was the first person to purchase one of Bradford’s works 14 years earlier.

Bradford has been widely exhibited internationally and represented the US at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017.

Bradford completed the monumental 400-foot commission “Pickett’s Charge” for the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, and a 32 panel site-specific commission “We The People” at the US Embassy in London, both also in 2017.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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