December 1, 2023—January 13, 2024
James Fuentes is pleased to present Little Storms, Cynthia Lahti’s debut solo exhibition in New York. Surrounding herself with an assembly of found images—culled from museum visits, art-historical reproductions, magazine spreads, and other pop-cultural ephemera—coupled with her internal cache of direct observations, Lahti re-animates static forms into ceramic figures who express a peculiar and potent emotion.
Having worked in metal, glass, plaster, and collage over the course of her career, Lahti gravitated toward clay as it facilitated an immediate connection to the forces of intuition, paradox, and spontaneity that guide her practice. Preceding each sculpture is a gestural line drawing that bleeds into swaths of watercolor. This study on paper opens up a guide for how the figure may be postured and painted in three dimensions. Working through the temporal demands of one technical medium and then another, each persona is sculpted, glazed, and fired into being with a pulsing velocity.
The organic compositions that emerge through this process celebrate the inevitable cracks, crumbles, and discolorations tied to an artist who is unafraid to boldly experiment with the myriad ways in which her materials can be molded and layered. Lahti’s work embodies a dance between the pristine and the blemished, the beautiful and the grotesque, the intentional and the accidental; wherein expressive quality supersedes the rules of perfection or proportion. Freestanding and still—beyond illustration or archetype—Lahti’s figures inspire an intimate moment of human recognition ranging from joy to discomfort with a quiet confidence. Perfect in their imperfections, the mistakes of her medium set forth a new criteria for the ideal.
Cynthia Lahti (b. 1963) lives and works in her birthplace of Portland, Oregon. She received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Lahti has presented solo exhibitions in Oregon at CEI Artworks Gallery (2019), Ditch Projects (2017), Imogen Gallery (2017), Passages Bookshop (2016), and PDX Contemporary Art (2016), among others. Her work is in the collections of the Portland Art Museum, Boise Art Museum, Columbia University Library, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Reed College, Stanford University’s Bowes Art and Architecture Library, University of California, Santa Barbara, Library, and Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, among others. In 2023, the artist’s drawings and sculptures were featured in Kelly Reichardt’s film Showing Up.