by Pac Pobric
Cindy Hinant. Softcore, 2012. Digital c-print, 30 x 40 inches. Courtesy Joe Sheftel Gallery.
Understanding an artist’s motivation is sometimes enlightening for the art critic, but more often is not. An artist’s intention is actually only important insofar as it helps him or her make a work of art, which then has to stand well enough on its own. Conceptual art tried to say otherwise, and all its energy was invested in ridding art of the need for criticism. Its failure was not only that much of the art was boring, but also that it didn’t take particularly insightful criticism to see so. Still, there’s a clearly discernible interest in conceptual practice that cuts through much contemporary art. But art can’t be dismissed simply because of its motivation. “Good art,” it’s worth repeating, “can come from anywhere.”
That Cindy Hinant is apparently interested in developing a post-conceptual critique of Minimalism or relation aesthetics is therefore only tangentially interesting. What matters more than methods are results, even if the latter help explain the former. And the results are decidedly mixed. It’s a strange thing that some of the more interesting pieces on view were at first glance so similar to some of the more threadbare, but that’s doubtless the situation. It’s clearest in the difference between a work like Makeup Painting and one like Softcore. At first glance, both look like all-over abstractions of cloudy forms, one in earthy yellow-red, the other in a concrete gray. But Softcore is in fact an obscured pornographic image of a woman bent over, and as with all blunt imagery, that’s all there is to it.
Makeup Painting has more going for it, even if there seems to be less to look at. But as often with interesting works of art, its reception is confused. One reviewer, for instance, noted that the picture “appear[s] as [a] pale monochromatic work, but closer inspection reveals [that it is] the result of the artist’s daily action of blotting her face on the paper,” as if these two points were somehow mutually exclusive. Aside from clearly being an unedited half-thought, it ignores the show’s most salient point: that perhaps abstraction offers the clearest possibility for a critique of art history, assuming that is the point.
Cindy Hinant. Makeup Painting, 2011.
Makeup on paper, 40 x 30 inches.
Courtesy Joe Sheftel Gallery.
Not that Hinant would have necessarily intended this result. But it stands nevertheless. Still, even a good piece like Makeup Painting may be too easily won over. It’s certainly more chromatically complex than many other monochromatic pictures—it’s in fact not a monochrome per se—but there’s very little sign of there having been a struggle to create it, which may be something of a problem. Good art probably shouldn’t be too easy. Anyway, it’s worth pointing out that Hinant is still a very young artist and that there is something here to be proud of. What remains to be seen is if Hinant sees her exhibit in the same way. Only future work will tell.