Meet The Committee: David Kordansky

The founder of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, talks collaborating with the late Betty Woodman and gives advice on acquiring art

Andy Rementer, illustration of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Courtesy: the artist 

What was your first encounter with art?

The skateboard decks and surf art of Jim Phillips. I grew up skating, and his visionary graphics for Santa Cruz Skateboards — indelible Day-Glo comics-style drawings and lettering — were my gateway to surrealism and beyond.

When did you decide to start a gallery, and why?

In graduate school at CalArts in the early 2000s I started organizing shows of my peers, and the gallery was a natural outgrowth of that energy. After graduating I knew a lot of incredible artists that weren’t being shown and seen. This gap in visibility still motivates me today.

How would you describe your program today?

International, intergenerational, and individualistic contemporary art in all media. The program remains dedicated to its West Coast roots, while always looking for other strains of this idiosyncratic sensibility elsewhere.

What’s been a significant moment in the gallery’s development?

Collaborating with Sam Gilliam and the late Betty Woodman has been a singular honor and a continual pleasure. Stepping back in time and bringing these artists further into the present, into view and into discussion, broadened the conversation for the gallery’s entire program.

How have you gone about connecting with the artists you represent: and how do you discover new artists?

Many of the artists I represent were first friends of mine; others have become fast friends as we’ve worked together. Collaborating is an intimate process that depends on trust, open communication, and shared passion. Not surprisingly, it’s through artists and friends that I learn about “new” artists.

Where is the gallery based today? 

We’re in Mid-City, having migrated from Culver City in 2014, and from Chinatown in 2008. We settled here for the building — a 1930s construction with a bow-truss ceiling, revitalized by Kulapat Yantrasast — and now we’re expanding into the lot next door. We’re thankful to have the space and flexibility here to do whatever our artists envision.

What part of the Frieze program are you most looking forward to?

Mary Weatherford in conversation with Suzanne Hudson. She has a novelist’s touch for storytelling and detail. I learn something new every time I see her talk.

What are you going to show at the fair?

We’re excited to debut a new series of wall works and sculpture by Kathryn Andrews. Using her signature conflation of pop and minimalist forms, she’s reactivating the story of the “Black Dahlia,” the gruesome 1947 murder that revealed the underbelly of Hollywood. Kathryn’s feminist reading of this legend will no doubt be a seductive and pointed presentation.

If someone had never acquired art before but wanted to start, what would you advise them? 

Follow your curiosity, trust your gut, and be comfortable taking risks.

What would you do if you weren’t a gallerist?

A stay-at-home dad / ski bum.

What makes L.A. unique as an art center?

The easy answers are light and space and schools, but also the city’s relative isolation (for a capital) on the Western American horizon means it’s always been a destination for outliers, freaks, and freedom-seekers. There’s a liberty here, reinforced by the city’s decentralization, which allows for interesting things to happen.

What’s one place a first-time visitor to the city shouldn’t miss?

It’s kind of cliché, but Griffith Observatory is a quintessential Los Angeles experience. It’s a beacon for the magic and myth of the city. There’s even a James Dean statue.

If you had to choose one work in a public collection in LA to live with forever, what would it be?

Ed Ruscha’s Annie, Poured from Maple Syrup (1966) in the Norton Simon Museum’s collection in Pasadena.

The 70 galleries at Frieze Los Angeles have been invited by a selection committee of peers, including Mara McCarthy, David Kordansky and Shaun Regen among others. For Frieze Week magazine, we spoke to them about the LA art scene and what they’re looking forward to at the fair.

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