Cynthia Hawkins has spent nearly five decades building a visual vocabulary of abstract forms derived from investigations into scientific, celestial and natural phenomena. Working in loose series, Hawkins is constantly repeating, evolving and adding to her own index of forms, allowing shapes to perform differently each time they are used. In her lyrical compositions, gravitational forces are illustrated through lines, grids, arrows, masses in orbit, and patches of color, with a palette that is both sophisticated and unpredictable, aside from a single series made in the 80s focused on the color green. Informed by her work as a historian and curator, Hawkins’ practice wrestles with the history of abstraction across the 20th century, embracing formal reinvention as a fundamental task of painting.
Hawkins (b. 1950, Queens, New York) is a longtime teacher, scholar, and curator. She received her doctorate in American Studies from the University of Buffalo, SUNY with a dissertation titled, “African American Agency and the Art Object, 1868-1917,” and until recently she was the gallery director and curator at the Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery, SUNY Geneseo, New York. She is included in the survey exhibition Just Above Midtown: 1974 to Present at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2022). Hawkins’ solo exhibitions include Natural Things, 1996–99, STARS, Los Angeles (2022); Clusters: Stellar and Earthly, Buffalo Science Museum, Buffalo (2009); New Works: The Currency of Meaning, Cinque Gallery, New York (1989); and Cynthia Hawkins, Just Above Midtown/Downtown Gallery, New York (1981). Her 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, La Grange, Georgia; and the Department of State, Washington, D.C. She has received the Brooklyn Museum Art School Scholarship, The Herbert and Irene Wheeler Grant and the Black Metropolis Research Consortium Fellowship. She lives and works in Rochester, New York.