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Childhood, and its artifacts, tends to leave an impression. In his current body of work at Praz Delavallade, Pierre Ardouvin readily engages childhood nostalgia, sometimes crossing into the saccharine. The artist depicts or manipulates toys and other objects—postcards, a carousel car, and a swingset—with the clumsy whimsicality, if not the hyperactivity, of a preadolescent, moving between drawings, collages, sculpture, and installation across Praz Delavallade’s handful of rooms with mixed results.
In a series of printed collage works, Ardouvin sources from vintage postcard prints that showcase far-flung locales, natural wonders, and above-average beaches, manipulating these images together with flourishes of drawn or painted elements, and shellacking the results in a thick layer of resin and glitter. But all the accessorizing often dampens the effect. The pink flower looming over an austere field of rock faces in Ecran de veille (Screensaver) (2013) seems more at odds than compositionally one with the busy black shapes covering the sky beyond it. L’inquietude des jours heureux 11, however, finds a moment of weird grace, transforming a rushing river bending around an ominous rock face into an upside-down beach in the lower half of the frame.
Aside from Ardouvin’s collaged curiosities are two sculptures too precious for their own good. Jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris (And never do I weep and never do I laugh) (2019) features a child-sized fiberglass carousel car sitting in a large, gold-gilded crib. The carousel car is in the shape of a swan, demurely bowing its head; there is a cut out for a seat, painted a fleshy pink, where your little legs go. Ohlala’s titular work in the adjacent room (2013) consists of a repurposed swing set; a rope hanging from its crossbar lassoes an oversized white tooth sculpture, roots and all, which rests on the gallery floor. One is to presumably intone the sound of a slamming door.
The on-the-nose symbolism and untransformed source material of these works thankfully does not carry over into the subtle evocation of Ardouvin’s Phrase (2018) series. Phrase consists of eight watercolor and crayon drawings on paper, each zeroing in on a specific object, usually a toy or a figurine. Each object is either an animal, a car, or an exaggerated human being (often a clown)—children’s toys often geared towards the strange, unfamiliar, or loud. Understatement is Ardouvin’s friend here, a quality missing from other works in Ohlala. The clarity and simplicity of specific objects, tenderly drawn, provides a point of repose, free of the hectic constructs elsewhere in the exhibition.
Pierre Ardouvin: Ohlala runs from March 16–May 11, 2019 at Praz Delavallade (6150 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048).