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In a distinctive and powerful body of work, produced over the past twenty years, Charles LeDray has employed diverse sculptural languages and materials such as needle-stitched cloth, carved human bone, and hand-thrown ceramics. In an era of high-tech production values, LeDray insists on a painstakingly manual fidelity that lends an air of deeply felt experience to his work. His diminutive sculptures transport viewers to moments of shared personal and cultural history, from childhood games to festive occasions. LeDray was not formally trained as an artist, learning to sew at home and intuitively developing his sense of the sculptural possibilities of vernacular forms. His mastery is all the more remarkable given the micro scale at which he typically works. His objects carved from human bone are exquisitely rendered, with astonishing precision, to sixteenths of an inch. He creates ceramic pots that are smaller than many people’s fingers, yet technically perfect and extraordinary in their diversity. At the same time, LeDray’s work is in no sense “naïve”; he has studied and absorbed the most sophisticated art of the classical, modern, and contemporary periods.
Untitled is a mishmash assemblage of patches of denimlike fabric that covers a form suggestive of the body of a child, perhaps taking refuge or playing hide-and-seek. Possessing a compelling magnetism, the unique floor sculpture displays LeDray’s rigorous and virtuosic handwork. The artist works on pieces in meticulous detail over weeks and years, without the help of studio assistants. His process and techniques of sewing and carving recall the visionary work of folk and outsider artists, such as the potter George Ohr, and his commitment to vernacular media is consistent with the broad interest in manual craft and the handmade in contemporary art.
This acquisition reflects the ICA/Boston’s commitment to fostering the careers of artists whose work it has shown: in 2010, the museum organized a mid-career survey of LeDray’s work. Untitled joins other sculptural works that demonstrate an interest in craft and the reuse of everyday material and forms by such artists as Tara Donovan, Josh Faught, and Rachel Harrison.
Gift of Alvin and Barbara Krakow