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Cynthia Hawkins at STARS


A new show at STARS highlights the abstract paintings of Cynthia Hawkins and is largely focused on a body of work from the late 1990s. The show’s title, Natural Things, is also an ongoing series of works for Hawkins, who looks to nature for inspiration for her abstract forms. Her colorful paintings have a kind of straightforwardness to them — floating shapes levitate on solid colored backgrounds — and yet, they surprise with subtle hue shifts and surprising plays with balance and movement. 

Across the works, a vocabulary blooms: strange, idiosyncratic forms are repeated to the point of becoming intentional markers, rather than random blobs and daubs. In Natural Things #4, four cocoon-like shapes float vertically above a red background, their odd edges carefully nested together. In a second series, Natural Things Part II, these shapes intensify, with jagged edges and sharp points pushing beyond the gentle roundness of some of the earlier paintings. Though a light feeling of floating remains, here the shapes are flanked by pattern, color, floral swirls, and polka dots, as if Hawkins were allowing her language a bit more room for experimentation and play. Together, the exhibition is an introduction to an artist whose work is firmly planted within the field of Black abstraction, and who we will surely be seeing more from in the coming years.

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Photo: Cynthia Hawkins, Natural Things, 1996-99 (installation view) (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and STARS, Los Angeles. Photo: Paul Salveson.