Childhood mementos—some cheery, others a bit creepy—are endemic in Pierre Ardouvin’s oeuvre. For his first solo show in Los Angeles, the French artist presents a selection of new and recent works in which youthful delights like toys, costume jewelry, carnival rides, playground equipment, and family vacations factor prominently. Featuring watercolors of stuffed animals, plastic figurine assemblages, and spectacular room-filling installations—notably the show’s title work, Ohlala, 2013, which evokes the pride and trauma of losing a tooth—this exhibition is an ode to a more innocent time.
Among the most recent works on view, Ardouvin’s “Phrase” paintings (2018-19) are sensitive watercolor renderings of well-loved (but inevitably discarded) playthings. Like the famous sled in Orson Wells’ Citizen Kane, each fuzzy animal, miniature car, and limp marionette that Ardouvin paints is a “Rosebud.” These nostalgia triggers, which appear individually and in pairs against a blank background, are simultaneously haunting and huggable. Similarly, poignant, if a bit livelier, are two small sculptures made from actual toys. Mounted on rotating mirrored bases, the bedazzled assemblages—The story makes no sense. Very disappointed and A lot of fiction is intensely nostalgic (both 2014)—twinkle as they slowly spin round and round. Surprisingly soulful, these glitzy sculptures are like totems from the realm of make-believe.