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This Winter At UMMA: Soaring Scale and Vivid Color from Artist Cullen Washington Jr.

Cullen Washington, Jr.: The Public Square on view beginning January 25

Ann Arbor, MI — The University of Michigan Museum of Art is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new works by abstract painter, Cullen Washington, Jr. The show, Cullen Washington, Jr.: The Public Square, is on view from Jan. 25th to May 17th, 2020 in the A. Alfred Taubman I Gallery. 

Join Cullen and curator, Vera Grant for a conversation about the work at the public opening on January 25 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Learn more

Cullen Washington, Jr.: The Public Square is a vivid series of large scale abstract paintings and small collage works that survey his interest in humanity and the Agora, the ancient Greek public square. In a time of global tension in politics, immigration and social polarization, Washington says he chooses the forum of the public square as a site for democracy, humanity and freedom of speech.

Washington creates works that reflect what he calls, “the greatest common denominator: mind, feelings and soul.”

In ancient Athens, the Agora served as the spiritual, commercial and political center for Greek life. Although its contemporary meaning refers to the marketplace, Agora originally meant to speak in the assembly.  

“The ideas of democracy that were formed in the Agora were for the people, of the people and by the people to a great extent,” Washington said. An artist residency in Athens allowed Cullen to visit ancient Greek sites, including the Agora. Despite the aftermath of economic turmoil, the artist said he witnessed globalization at its best in Athens, affirming his idea of the global citizen and the power of public speech.

Washington creates works that reflect what he calls, “the greatest common denominator: mind, feelings and soul.”

“These are the common factors that are present in all people,” Washington said. “The possibility of unity can be reached by looking for commonalities that are superior to the superficial qualities that categorize and sometimes demean people.”

To do this Washington uses abstraction, graphic lines punctuated by color, held in large undulating paper covered canvases. The work utilizes diverse means of process and medium to result in a seamless concert of form and color. He seeks equality in each medium as a way to exemplify the equality and diversity in people. Each work can be freely interpreted by the viewer, allowing each person to have their own voice. 

On Thursday, January 23, Washington will present “Abstract Meditations on the Grid and Humanity" as part of the Penny Stamps Lecture Series and the 2020 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. The talk begins at 5:10 p.m. at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Learn more.

A native of Alexandria, Louisiana, Washington lives and works in New York City. His works can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum of Harlem and the Alexandria Museum of Art. He has shown nationally and internationally at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Queens Museum, NY and the Saatchi Gallery, London. He has been an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Yaddo, ArcAthens and the Jon Mitchell Foundation Residency in New Orleans. Cullen is also a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation grant.

Lead support for this exhibition is provided by Erica Gervais Pappendick and Ted Pappendick, the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, Michigan Medicine, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the Institute for the Humanities. Additional generous support is provided by the University of Michigan Department of History of Art, School of Education, School of Social Work, and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. 


Image above by Andrea Feldman

Agora 5 - Detail shot

Cullen Washington, Jr.: The Public Square

ON VIEW Jan 25 — May 17, 2020

Cullen Washington, Jr.: The Public Square is a vivid series of large scale abstract paintings and small collage works that survey his interest in humanity and the Agora, the ancient Greek public square. In a time of global tension in politics, immigration and social polarization, Washington says he chooses the forum of the public square as a site for democracy, humanity and freedom of speech.