Writing Archive

Charles LeDray @ ICA

The Weekly Dig, July 19, 2010 (read there)

Charles LeDray is a miniaturist. I put it that way because the exhibition of his sculptures at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, entitled workworkworkworkwork, is accompanied by curatorial language that flashes buzz-killing grad-school art-lingo chops.

One catalog essayist says that certain works "participate in a concept of time that can be termed entropic," while a wall label for another group of works claims that they "question our experience of the singular, the individual, the group, and the community."

Phooey on that. This exhibition is fun.

Much of the pleasure of looking at LeDray's objects, handmade with great care at scales ranging from pint-sized to vanishing, is the same that one gets from a finely-made dollhouse. They are self-contained universes, like ours but orderly and distilled, and they invite the viewer to imagine the lives of their inhabitants, likewise orderly and distilled. LeDray's work differs from a dollhouse, though, in that he veers off of replication into poetry. The dolls themselves are represented only by their clothing, which LeDray has sewn with meticulous craft and altered in surprising ways. The jacket hung from a wire hanger with pair of pants and a shirt in "Charles" (1995), for instance, sports a patch on the breast with the artist's name in a style befitting a gas station attendant. Even smaller clothes, mostly women's, hang from the bottom edge of the outfit. Perhaps they represent a history of romantic entanglements and an ensuing child or two.

The titular piece of the exhibition first appeared on the streets of New York in 1991, and it recreates, in miniature, displays of used and dubious goods that one might find for sale on sheets spread out on the sidewalk. (LeDray takes a few licenses. One wonders about the contents of HAG Magazine.) "Mens Suits," from 2006-2009, is an ambitious three-part installation appearing for the first time in the US that depicts at 1/10 scale the men's sections of a thrift store. As the artist lovingly renders them, the suits are unstylish, the ties passe, the floor tiles worn, and the suspended ceiling littered with dust bunnies. Honest reportage of the humble details creates a melancholy yet laudatory effect in a manner recalling Steinbeck.

Word count: 367

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