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Announcing Representation of Cynthia Hawkins

Investigation into Green (Yellow Flashes), 1986, oil on canvas, 70 x 26 in. (177.8 x 66 cm)

I am in love with the very act of painting – the magic, mystery, and meaning. It is about the self, and the world, and vision
– Cynthia Hawkins [1]

Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to announce the representation of painter, curator, and historian Cynthia Hawkins (b. 1950). Since 1972, Hawkins has consistently painted abstractly and in series, exploring diverse literary, philosophical, and scientific influences within a delineated structure. Hawkins’s paintings utilize a highly developed vocabulary of symbols and signs to investigate color, movement, and light, and her work is dense with richly evocative meaning. Paula Cooper Gallery will include a selection of paintings from Hawkins’s 1986 series Investigations into Green at Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2023 as part of a presentation of work on the theme of nature. A one-person Cynthia Hawkins exhibition will open at the gallery in March 2025. STARS, Los Angeles, will continue to represent the artist.

In the 1970s and 1980s Hawkins was an important member of the communities surrounding the Black-owned New York galleries Just Above Midtown, Cinque Gallery and Kenkeleba Gallery, all of which exhibited her work. During this period Hawkins’s paintings were also included in exhibitions at The Bronx Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Clocktower Gallery. In 2022, Hawkins’s painting Moving Box (1975) was included in Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces curated by Linda Goode Bryant at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Early on, Hawkins used geometry and the push-pull technique developed by Hans Hofmann to evoke space through expertly wielded color. A particular interest in ancient and prehistoric art influenced her use of hieroglyph-like markings, shapes and lines that allow the paintings to be read like a text. By moving the eye across the composition these forms indicate to the viewer where to begin and end. While each series of paintings is inspired by a specific area of Hawkins’s wide-ranging research into nature, outer space, mathematics, or other topics, there is a compelling use of color and a remarkable consistency of style and form throughout her ambitious oeuvre. In the artist’s words, “Abstraction is not merely taking things, ideas, and objects apart. For me, abstraction is about possibilities and the potential of the real to become something other. Abstraction offers me opportunities to remake the real.” [2]

Outside of her painting practice, Hawkins has enjoyed a successful career as a scholar and curator. From 2007 to 2021 Hawkins was Director and Curator at The Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery at SUNY Geneseo, and in 2019 Hawkins was awarded a PhD from the University of Buffalo, New York. Her dissertation, African American Agency and the Art Object, 1868-1917, examined the expanding influence of Black artists in the United States and the impact of their work on the wider Black community.

Cynthia Hawkins (b. 1950, Queens, New York) received a BA in painting from the Queens College, City University of New York in 1977 and an MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 1992. She has exhibited widely in New York and the Unites States throughout her career, and her one-person exhibitions include Cynthia Hawkins, Just Above Midtown, New York (1981); Cynthia Hawkins, Frances Wolfson Art Center, Miami (1986); New Works: The Currency of Meaning, Cinque Gallery, New York (1989); Selected Works: 1990–1996, Queens College Art Center (1997); Clusters: Stellar and Earthly, Buffalo Science Museum, Buffalo (2009); Natural Things, 1996–99, STARS, Los Angeles (2022); and Gwynfor’s Soup, or the Proximity of Matter, Ortuzar Projects, New York (2023). Hawkins’s work is in numerous public collections, including The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; Kenkeleba Gallery, New York; The La Grange Art Museum, Georgia; and the Department of State, Washington, D.C. She has received numerous awards, including the Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting (2023); the Black Metropolis Research Consortium Fellowship (2009); The Herbert and Irene Wheeler Grant (1995); and the Brooklyn Museum Art School Scholarship (1972).

1. Cynthia Hawkins quoted in Gumbo Ya Ya - Anthology of Contemporary African American Women Artists, Leslie King-Hammond, ed. (New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 1995), p. 99.
2. “Cynthia Hawkins Interviewed by Ksenia M. Soboleva,” BOMB Magazine, August 2, 2023: