New Waves / Thaï Pipes

Solo show at Marta, Los Angeles, Californie, USA, 2020

Modified PVC pipes, Bangkok, Thailand, 2019-2020
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    ‘New Waves’ is a constellation of new and existing works by Bangkok-based Elvire Bonduelle (b. 1981, Paris, FR). Comprising highlights from the artist’s ongoing ‘Thai Pipes’ series of vessels and lighting, a chair (‘Wood is Good’) and low table, several of Bonduelle’s ‘rotating paintings’, and an ad hoc fountain positioned in the gallery’s rear garden, “New Waves” posits a provisional domestic environment populated entirely by items of the artist’s making.

    Observing a proliferation of brilliant blue PVC infrastructure upon her arrival in Thailand in 2018, Bonduelle began experimenting with what she would come to call ‘assisted ready-mades’ (in French, 'ready-made aidés’): inherently casual, Duchampian riffs upon existing typologies that alter an object’s purpose with just one or two gestures. While these objects’ subsequent function is not essential to their existence, they often take the form of ‘useful’, occasionally quotidian things by virtue of the fact that these kinds of items often find their way into a would-be user’s everyday: per Bonduelle, “I want art to be present in daily life; thats why I make usual objects.”

    In her pursuit of works that infiltrate routine, Bonduelle employs a relentless optimism across mediums, often producing formally joyful work that embraces rudimentary systems, hues, and fabrication methods. Her paintings at times “revel in their own simplicity, the method of their making immediately evident, even to an untrained eye” (K. Sutton, Artforum, 2016).

    ‘New Waves’ takes its name simultaneously from the French cinematic and international musical movements; from the brush-strokes found on the canvases in the exhibition; from the water that might otherwise run through the turns of adjacent sections of PVC; and from a recently re-appropriated quotation by martial artist Bruce Lee.

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    After Ad Hoc 

    In 1968, architecture critic Charles Jencks coined the term ‘adhocism’ to describe a phenomenon he saw going on around him: the mongrel—his word— and improvisational use and mis- use of materials and systems to produce new solutions. Adhocism lay the groundwork for a catalog of vocabulary describing acts of individual agency on our everyday material culture: readymade, DIY, IKEA hacking, informal, guerrilla, etcetera.

    A sister term to the art world’s ‘assemblage’ or ‘bricolage’ (the preferred word of Reyner Banham for a movement he disagreed with), Jencks term revels in an aesthetic of found function. It’s a rebuttal to the dictates of Modernism and temporally aligned with the student protests in Paris and elsewhere of the same year.

    Cobblestones wrenched from the streets and weaponized, just as Hong Kong protesters pulled up bricks to create police obstacles. But adhocism is also weighted with colonialist baggage and the timeworn practice of the West naming, and thus claiming, quotidian practices of people of differ- ent classes, cultures, races.

    Bangkok-based French artist E vire Bond e e’s photographs of pipe details in Los Angeles, New York, Sa ̃o Paulo, Paris, Bangkok, Wuhan, and Shanghai are careful observations of how a city works. Her lens frames critical questions: Are these a celebration of local ingenuity—the clever deployment of medium blue PVC pipe to form a quick bollard or filtration system? A formal study of the elegant excesses of curvature— does a de facto junta government demand a taxonomy of street barricades? An appropriation of Southeast Asian minor architectures—an inadvertent self-portrait taken in a gilded handrail?

    Her ongoing series of vessels and lighting, ‘Thai Pipes’, takes infrastructural components from a native context and adapts them into decorative objects (‘assisted ready-mades’, after Duchamp) whose forms defer to her photographs. Reading Bond e e’s images against her PVC artworks reveals sincerity, playfulness.

    The bright blue PVC pieces, however, are not wholly innocent; they insist that form matters. Bonduelle has a shrewd appreciation for particular gestures: a narrowing neck, a graceful radius.

    There is real pleasure in her détournement—the calculated alchemy of making beauty from the ordinary.

    Mimi Zeiger, January 2020

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