Art review: Lesley Vance at David Kordansky Gallery

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

This post has been corrected. See note below.

Lesley Vance’s dense little paintings are jam-packed with contradictions. That may be maddening for people who like their art to be logical and consistent, like arguments and contracts. But paintings are neither. And that’s exactly why Vance’s works are so fascinating.

At David Kordansky Gallery, her 13 oils on linen and eight watercolors seem to contain more space, movement and light-swallowing emptiness than their dimensions allow. The biggest measures less than 20-by-15-inches. It appears to present three fragments of three broken images — all suspended in velvety blackness — alongside what might be a magnified detail of the fragment on the right.

Its format recalls maps within maps, schematic diagrams that use shifts in scale to provide the right balance between details and overviews. Vance’s mastery of scale-shifts gives her abstract pictures the capacity to teeter-totter between tightly focused close-ups and distant, big-picture perspectives.


Many of her sumptuously painted works have an eye-to-the-keyhole atmosphere. Yet they never evoke anything illicit. In some, highlights recall klieg lights in the night sky. Others resemble the flickering beams of flashlights, just before the batteries die.

Both intimate and impenetrable, vibrant and icy, Vance’s paintings make strange bedfellows of their influences. Some borrow Caravaggio’s sumptuous browns, inky blacks and glowing golds, along with his capacity to muster mystery from the darkest of shadows. Others steal from Dali, taking the sensation that they depict an actual world, exactly as it appears in the artist’s imagination. And others riff off of Arthur Dove, suffusing themselves with the feeling that they are boiled-down distillations of reality’s essentials.

As demanding as they are satisfying, Vance’s paintings do not suffer fools.

-- David Pagel

Lesley Vance, David Kordansky Gallery, 3143 S. La Cienega Blvd., Unit A, (310) 558-3030, through Aug. 13. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

[Updated, Aug. 2 at 4:08 p.m: The image is from 2011. An earlier version of this post had the incorrect year.]