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Gallerina

At the Whitney: It's a Small World

A pair of men's briefs barely bigger than a silver dollar. Racks of suits barely two feet tall. Vitrines full of thousands of handmade ceramics—none of them bigger than a thimble.

In a wonderfully eccentric solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum—part Victorian curiosity cabinet, part Barbie Dream House—Seattle-born sculptor Charles LeDray takes the objects that we most fetishize and reduces them to so many useless trinkets. There is a miniature straight jacket, teeny tiny books carved out of bigger books and absolutely ethereal carvings made out of human bone, including a miniature model of the solar system that could fit in the palm of a child's hand.

It may sound precious, but LeDray's dry humor keeps it whimsical. Besides, in an era that's all about big and overproduced, there's something refreshing about seeing so many crafty bits created by an artist's own hands. (Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, LeDray doesn't outsource his fabrication and will often spend years working on a piece.)

Among the stand-out items: a web made of miniature clothing, a delicate ear of wheat pieced together out of human bone and a stuffed cat licking its bottom—not to mention, the ensembles (at the exit) of diminutive clothing and invented magazines with names like Jocks. All of it is totally weird, in only the best, most engrossing way.

Charles LeDray, workworkworkworkwork, is up at the Whitney Museum through Feb. 13. Do not miss it!

A detail of the installation 'Mens Suits,' from 2006-2009. To give a sense of scale: The racks of clothing extended no higher than my knee - and I'm 5'3".
A detail of the installation 'Mens Suits,' from 2006-2009. To give a sense of scale: The racks of clothing extended no higher than my knee - and I'm 5'3". ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Admiring the 1993 piece 'Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines.' There's something potent about seeing articles intended to convey power in such diminutive sizes.
Admiring the 1993 piece 'Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines.' There's something potent about seeing articles intended to convey power in such diminutive sizes. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Another view of 'Mens Suits' — with human, for scale. The show at the Whitney represents the debut of this work in the U.S.
Another view of 'Mens Suits' — with human, for scale. The show at the Whitney represents the debut of this work in the U.S. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
'Mens Suits' is a three-part installation — complete with fluorescent drop ceiling and dust. In fact, dust is included as a material of the piece.
'Mens Suits' is a three-part installation — complete with fluorescent drop ceiling and dust. In fact, dust is included as a material of the piece. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
LeDray also produces works in ceramic: tiny bowls and other vessels, no two of which are exactly alike. 'Milk and Honey,' above, is part of the Whitney's permanent collection.
LeDray also produces works in ceramic: tiny bowls and other vessels, no two of which are exactly alike. 'Milk and Honey,' above, is part of the Whitney's permanent collection. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
A detail from the piece, '2000 Vessels' — crafted in 1996-2003.
A detail from the piece, '2000 Vessels' — crafted in 1996-2003. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
'Throwing Shadows,' one of LeDray's most recent works, is composed of 3,000 diminutive black porcelain pots. Most of these are no bigger than my thumb.
'Throwing Shadows,' one of LeDray's most recent works, is composed of 3,000 diminutive black porcelain pots. Most of these are no bigger than my thumb. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
LeDray's most ethereal works are the ones carved out of human bones, such as 'Cricket Cage,' from 2002.
LeDray's most ethereal works are the ones carved out of human bones, such as 'Cricket Cage,' from 2002. ( Photograph by Tom Powel. Courtesy of Sperone Westwater )
At the show's exit: tidy arrangements of items he once photographed on the streets — like the many vendors who peddle odds and ends around New York City.
At the show's exit: tidy arrangements of items he once photographed on the streets — like the many vendors who peddle odds and ends around New York City. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
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