The title of Charles LeDray’s show at the ICA in Boston is “workworkworkworkwork”. And let me tell you, that is what he did. This New York-based artist spent over twenty years gathering, cutting, stitching, fashioning, building, and sculpting a miniature world out of fabric, carved bone, and clay. One installation contains three small-scale replicas of second-hand clothing shops packed with suits, hats, and overcoats, even briefs for the Lilliputian-set. Another room contains cases of tiny ceramic vessels, each unique, and each less than two inches tall.
But this is not Bonpoint for your baby dolls. The clay pieces are pristine but the clothes are tattered and yellowed as if the wearer was in Fagin’s clan of pickpocketers. There is a sadness that hangs over this show as if each article represents a lost dream.
I wonder how LeDray views the world after hours spent in his studio creating his thimble-sized world? Maybe, it’s like leaving a fun house with distorting mirrors, or Alice emerging from the rabbit hole. If anyone questions the tedium of making art, and thinks it’s all gallery openings and glam, they need look no further. Like the ICA’s earlier show of Tara Donovan’s work, the Charles LeDray proves that great art takes time, patience, commitment, and maybe a little OCD.
Side note: I took my children, ages 7 and 10, and for them the show could have been titled “playplayplayplayplay”. They didn’t feel the mournfulness that I did; they were in awe of LeDray’s imagination, detail, and skill.