Critics’ Picks

Pierre Ardouvin, Ohlala, 2013, playground swing set, plaster, resin, 177 1/8 x 137 3/4 x 236 1/4 ".

Pierre Ardouvin, Ohlala, 2013, playground swing set, plaster, resin, 177 1/8 x 137 3/4 x 236 1/4 ".

Los Angeles

Pierre Ardouvin

Praz-Delavallade | Los Angeles
6150 Wilshire Blvd
March 16–May 11, 2019

Is childhood ever the simple, innocent era so often depicted in popular culture? Pierre Ardouvin teases dubiety out of youth’s ostensible joys. His current exhibition begins with “Phrase,” 2018–19, a set of watercolor-and-crayon drawings portraying weathered playthings—a creepy clown and puppet included—whose sappy pretensions are tempered by eerie undercurrents. For example, in one drawing, a boy’s head (which might be that of a doll) occupies the lower half of the page; he rolls his eyes keenly upward toward a small figurine of a pistol-pointing soldier, as if imagining his future self.

A more flamboyant two-dimensional series, “Ecran de veille (Screensaver),” 2013–17, consists of altered picture-postcard scenes printed on large canvases, framed in chipboard, and encrusted in glossy resin and glitter. The tawdry superficial sheen underscores the sinister nature of Ardouvin’s painted and digitally scanned interventions—inky splotches, imposing shadows, tentacular creatures, and underground caverns. These dichotomous vistas bring to mind the fairytales-cum-nightmares of the Brothers Grimm.

Two particularly memorable sculptures suggest that children’s trials are often downplayed or recast as pleasurable times in the minds of adults. Evoking the discomfiture of losing one’s first tooth, Ohlala, 2013, sports a giant cartoonish molar portentously lassoed to a swing set. In light of the implied dental trauma, diminutive trapeze rings vaguely connote meat hangers and instruments of torture as much as playground injuries. Jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris (And Never Do I Weep and Never Do I Laugh), 2019, features an iridescent carousel swan trapped inside a gilded coop resembling a baby’s bedstead. The caged carnival waterfowl seems illusory and disorienting, perhaps evincing a lasting infantile impression of paradise as a merry-go-round and prison as a crib.