In Charles LeDray’s workworkworkworkwork (that’s five in total) exhibition at the Whitney, the artist has created “MENS SUITS” (2006-2009), a replica of the shop floor of a thrift store in miniature. But this is no mini train set; the shop is actually somewhere between life size and tiny. Check out this video with Whitney curator Carter Foster for a peek into LeDray’s strangely scaled world. What blows me away is the immaculate realism of the thrift store space, the dirty floors, fluorescent lights and, as Foster notes, the tiny coat hangers, cast in resin.
Through his body of work, Charles LeDray has often used the concept of replication and miniatures to engage with ideas of craft and the handmade. LeDray uses no studio assistants for his work; it’s all one guy’s hands that stitched these tiny jackets and perfect ties. In the Whitney’s collection, check out “Milk and Honey” (1994-96), a collection of 2000 handmade porcelain vessels in a glassed wood cabinet. “Throwing Shadows” (2008-10) is a similar collection of vessels, but these are black, and cast shadows on their solid white surfaces. The “Workworkworkwork” of the exhibition title refers to an ever-growing, ever-changing group of small-scale clothing replicas first created in 1991 and meant to recall haphazard collections of clothing sold on the street by itinerant shopkeepers.
In a rare quality for art museum videos functioning as exhibition tours, the production value of this LeDray segment is particularly high. The camera smoothly pans and shifts in and out of focus in a very aesthetically pleasing manner, giving us an in-depth and wide-angle view of the installation, all while Foster narrates. Listen for the ambient sounds of hangers scraping along racks and the foot steps of visitors crouching around the exhibition.