Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Hinman received his BFA from Syracuse University in 1955 and went on to study at the Arts Student League of New York. In the early 1960s he shared a studio with James Rosenquist on the historic Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan and later shared a studio with Robert Indiana on Spring Street. He moved into a larger studio on the Bowery in 1965 alongside Will Insley and Max Gimblett, where he still resides. He was always part of a community of prominent artists of the time, including Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Eva Hesse, Adolph Gottlieb, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Ryman, Brice Marden, Robert Mangold and many others.
Hinman's art career began in the 1960's with a seminal exhibition, 7 New Artists at Sidney Janis Gallery, followed by a solo exhibition at Richard Feigen Gallery in 1964. Other important 1960s exhibitions include the Tibor de Nagy 1965 exhibition curated by Frank Stella and Henry Geldzahler (with Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Will Insley); Art in Process: The Visual Development of a Structure at Finch College Museum of Art, May 1966 (Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, Charles Hinman, Will Insley, Sven Lukin); Young America at The Whitney Museum of American Art, 1965, and Art Institute of Chicago's annuals in 1966 and 1969. His work was represented by Galerie Denise René in New York and Paris, as well as Hans Mayer in Düsseldorf. For the next forty years Hinman’s work was exhibited worldwide and expanded to commissions, such as The Wooden Dove, spanning almost 50 feet across.
During his Bowery years, Hinman’s work has been exhibited and collected by major institutions and collectors around the world. His artwork is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Denver Art Museum, the Nagaoka Museum in Japan, the Tel Aviv Museum in Israel, among others. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and four Pollock-Krasner Foundation grants.