How David Kordansky Redefined L.A. Art

How David Kordansky Redefined L.A. Art

Amid L.A.’s notorious pomp, David Kordansky Gallery is an ever-expanding haven of art and substance.

Amid L.A.’s notorious pomp, David Kordansky Gallery is an ever-expanding haven of art and substance.

Photography: Torbjørn Rødland

Text: Samuel Anderson

THIS STORY APPEARS IN VMAN43, ON NEWSSTANDS SOON

Los Angeles is the city of stars, but its art scene is comet-like, cycling between obscurity and luminosity depending on when you look. David Kordansky Gallery has been the rare local native to steadily expand within notoriously L.A. art’s volatile radius—unmistakably thanks to its eponymous founder. A former artist himself who pivoted to representation soon after graduating from CalArts, David Kordansky, the gallerist, is tasked to handle both artistic temperaments and temperamental markets. But he’s always considered his artists first: “Working with artists is a serious commitment; I’m deeply connected to my artists—personally, aesthetically, and professionally,” he says. “I don’t know if there’s another way to do it.”  

Kordansky’s hands-on style is, quite literally, on display. In 2016, for example, Kordansky served as both gallerist and model to Torbjørn Rødland, at the photographer’s request. “At one point he had me falling into a lemon tree...There was a lot of laughter and double takes,” says Kordansky, referring to the finished product’s Art Basel debut. “There’s no better way to understand an artist’s practice than participating in [it].” (Below, the duo recreate that portrait for VMAN.)

David Kordansky by Torbjørn Rødland, at David Kordansky Gallery in 2019

His approach yields material successes: Having grown into a cavernous Mid-City space in 2014, the gallery unveiled a size-doubling extension in February, timed to Frieze’s second-ever L.A. art fair. For a longtime proponent like Kordansky, these local developments feel like self-fulfilling prophecies. “I feel like I’ve been making the case [for L.A. art] since 2003 in Chinatown,” he says. “The upswing is [due] partly to [art fairs], but it always comes back to the artists.” 

As much as Kordansky credits artists, they give it back in kind. For New York-based multimedia artist Rashid Johnson, who recently “went Hollywood” with his first directorial project, HBO’s Native Son, Kordansky is a stabilizing force. “The L.A. art scene has definitely gotten much bigger,” says Johnson. “But I’ve always felt a real closeness to it, because of my relationship to David.” Whether or not Johnson has his own Kordansky cameo in mind remains to be seen.

Torbjørn Rødland, Buddy System (2019), presented at Frieze Los Angeles 2020 (Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery)

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