American, b. 1932 | Syracuse, New York
An American pioneer of hard-edged shaped canvases, Charles Hinman has had a distinguished career and inexorable commitment to a single idea. Hinman has been painting hard-edged shaped abstract canvases for over half a century. His active involvement as a painter parallels Frank Stella during the mid 1960’s, when both artists became involved in changing the format of a painting from a mainstay rectilinear surface to other improbable shapes. In some ways, Hinman’s early painting from 1964 became a touchstone for artists who gradually began to focus their attention on the shaped canvases. The genre, in which both he and Stella were major practitioners, evolved during a strategic period in the story of contemporary abstract painting, a period that refuted the authority of the gesture in favor of geometric space. As new variations on this theme began to arrive on the scene, works by Leon Polk Smith, Ellsworth Kelly and Ron Gorchov, among others, received critical attention.
In theory, the prototype for this development may go back to Barnett Newman’s “The Wild” (1950), a single linear vertical “zip” framed with a color field as if the wall itself would replace the absent chromatic field. Although Newman’s interest did not take this notion much further, he was clearly focused on the rectangle as the source for his framing support throughout the great span of his career. Then, two years before the artist’s death, he painted two triangular paintings, “Jericho” (1960) and “Chartres” (1969). Newman laid the groundwork for Hinman and Stella including the latter’s metallic paintings from 1963, and color polygons from 1966- to break down he doors and move outside the conventional rectangle. (Although the two artist were working virtually at the same time, they were structuring their canvases very differently from one another. Stella continued to work systematically on a flat surface while Hinman projected the surface forward using wood supports underneath. The distinction between these two forms of shaping their paintings played a crucial role in how their styles evolved.
Hinman’s early recognition came with work he included in an important exhibition at Sidney Janis gallery in 1964-65, in which he showed “Poltergeist”(1964), a constructed painting resembling a large, somewhat threatening hairpin. Regardless of its association, the painting immediately grabbed the attention of critics and curators alike. This led to an important show at the Richard Feigen gallery and inclusion in another major exhibition at TIbor de Nagy titled Shape and Structure, in which Stella proved influential in supporting Hinman’s participation. MoMa soon acquired “Poltergeist” and other museums followed in purchasing others of his shaped canvases. Hinman has received many awards including at the Everson Museum and three at the Butler Institute of American Art. He received a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Hinman’s current works; striking, hard-edged, three dimensional canvases are still somewhere between painting and sculpture. They hold their own, acting as reflectors of color, prisms of sorts, although made solely of canvas, wood and paint. They play with light, hue, shape, with what is actually there and what is merely optical illusion.