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Charles Ledray's Diminutive Yet Powerfully Resonant Objects at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Charles LeDray, American, born 1960. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, 1993. Fabric, wire, vinyl, silkscreen, zipper. Private Collection, Houston. © Charles LeDray.

HOUSTON, TX.- The New York-based artist Charles LeDray, known for his diminutive yet powerfully resonant objects made of fabric, clay, and bone, is the subject of a major mid-career survey at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The exhibition is on view from May 15 through September 11, 2011. Organized by Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, the exhibition traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and will conclude its national tour in Houston.

With approximately 50 sculptures and installations spanning the past 25 years, CHARLES LEDRAY: workworkworkworkwork traces the themes of community and identity that have animated the artist’s career to date. In these meticulously assembled works, LeDray revives manual traditions of exquisite craftsmanship. His sculptures range from re-creations of stuffed animals and tailored clothing to tiny ceramic vessels, bound books, and delicate carvings of human bone. The Boston Globe heralded the exhibition: "LeDray has a poet’s ability to concentrate and lift the imagination. His work registers loneliness and futility, yes, but also togetherness, renewal, and all the endless idiosyncrasies of life." The New York Times declared that this "magical retrospective … is dumbfounding. That one man could have singlehandedly created all these things defies credibility."

“Charles LeDray captivates the imagination and his work defies typical museum conventions of presentation," said MFAH interim director Gwendolyn H. Goffe. "In Houston, he will collaborate with the MFAH staff to create a unique and dramatic installation in the soaring spaces of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Cullinan Hall."

Alison de Lima Greene, MFAH curator of contemporary art and special projects, oversees the Houston presentation. Greene states, "LeDray commands our memories with extraordinary eloquence. Whether creating a singular object or an elaborate tableau, he has an uncanny ability to summon absent figures and past experiences. Indeed, many of his works are like miniature time machines, as each element is marked by signs of wear, inscribed by use, and empowered and eroded by love."

Randi Hopkins, organizing curator of the exhibition, has observed further: "Inspired by the underlying history of objects, both precious and mundane, LeDray evokes both pathos and reflection. [His] importance lies not only in the aesthetic magnetism of the objects he has created, but in the rigorous position he has taken as an artist, anticipating what can be seen in the broader art world as a return to manual craft and the handmade."

Among the works to be shown are the colorful Party Bed (2006-2007) with a welter of coats of all patterns seemingly tossed onto a bed while the festivities take place in another room; Village People (2003-2010), an ongoing project, presents an array of 52 hats that conjures a parade of identities; and Orrery (1997), carved from bone, which recreates on a minute scale an antique model of our solar system. The exhibition title is taken from workworkworkworkworkwork, a fantastic array of close to 600 miniature items of clothing, accessories, and magazines, laid out much as street venders display their wares.

LeDray’s most recent work is characterized by increasingly expansive, multi-part installations. The exhibition premieres Throwing Shadows (2008-2010), an extraordinary new ceramic display, which includes approximately 3,000 unique small black porcelain vessels. Further making its US debut in is MENS SUITS (2009), an installation that brings viewers to the floor to examine three very distinct vignettes of a second-hand clothing shop in which every item is rendered in extremely precise, intimately wrought detail and scale. In a scene that feels suspended in time and space, MENS SUITS invites viewers to imagine the lives through which these objects seem to have passed—and, perhaps, any chance of their future use and continued existence.

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