Cullen Washington, Jr. – Spring 2019

Spring Residency Fellow, 2019

Cullen Washington, Jr. was ARCAthens first visual artist in residence. His Fellowship took place February 19-March 31, 2019, in Athens, Greece.

Cullen Washington, Jr. is a visual artist, who utilizes the grid to communicate humanity and inter-connectedness. He describes his collage abstract paintings as non-representational fields of activity. Washington has shown nationally and internationally. Selected exhibitions include The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Saatchi Gallery London, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Academy of Arts and Letters, NY. Washington has been a resident at The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He is the recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award and in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, Charles Saatchi Gallery, Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, and the Alexandria Museum of Art, Louisiana.

All paintings from the Agora Series

Cullen has been awarded numerous artist in residency fellowships, 2019 Artist in Residence, ArcAthens, Athens, Greece; 2018 Artist in Residence, Joan Mitchell Foundation, New Orleans, LA; 2017 Artist in Residence, Amherst College, Amherst, MA; 2016 Artist in Residence, The Fountainhead Residency, Miami, FL; 2015 Artist in Residence, Queens Space, NY; 2013 Artist in Residence, The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; 2012 Artist in Residence, Rush Arts Gallery, NY Artist in Residence, NARS (New York Art Residency and Studios Foundation), NY; and in 2011 Artist in Residence, Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY. ARCAthens is proud to have him as its first residency session in Athens.

Residency Experience

As ARCAthens Visual Art Fellow for the Spring 2019 Pilot Program, Cullen lived in the central neighborhood of Metaxourgeio for six weeks with “a view of not only the Acropolis, but also the cultural strata that is reflective of the new color of Athens.” His living space was a one-bedroom apartment on a block dotted with fresh-sprung Chinese and Pakistani shops—an indication of the strong influx of immigrants that have been settling into Athens in recent years. 

In his creative process, time is consciously utilized in what Cullen refers to as gestation. A mental image forms through an experience, which then “simmers and churns… over and over again, daily.” In time, the image becomes “an end result that is vague enough for innovation and invention, but strong enough to lessen the anxiety of how it will turn out.

This gestation method was dynamically supported during Cullen’s residency, where the focus was on experience and process as opposed to concrete results. He described the outreach programming provided by ARCAthens as “almost turnkey… to integrate into the social and historic fiber of the city. With options almost every night for art openings and events that would surely make possible introductions to some of the leading contemporary artists the city had to offer.

Cullen with Poka Yio, Athens School of Fine Art: ARCAthens Curatorial Fellow Larry Ossei-Mensah and Elena Kechagia; with Eozen Agopian at Eleftheria Tseliou Gallery; central neighborhood of Metaxourgeio, site of residency apartment and Atopos cvc

Getting to know multidisciplinary artist Poka-Yio, Cullen identified with his sense of play as facilitator of art-making. During Eozen Agopian‘s exhibition opening at Elefteria Tseliou Gallery, resonance was found in the beliefs that drive the art. At Nikos Papadimitriou‘s studio, boundaries of printmaking know-how were expanded. Through ARCAthens Assistant Director Iris Plaitakis, Cullen was able to dive deep into his long-held interest in the Athenian Agora. Each encounter was an active catalyst for cross-pollination and relationship-building with various artists and communities in Athens.

Cullen visited the studios of: Nikos Papadimitriou and Myrto Xanthopoulou and had studio visits with Paolo Colombo and Cathryn Drake,Mario, his landlord;Nikos Papadimitriou, artist whose studio he used for printmaking; Poka-Yo Professor and Artist; Maria Papadimitrio Artist and Founder of Victoria Projects; Director of the Agora Archives and Archeological Finds; Adonis Volanakis Artist and Activist; Paolo Colombo Italian Curator for Biennials Worldwide; Elena Kechagi Archival Material and Documentation Administrator of the Contemporary Greek Art Institute; Chryssa Avrami Producer and Arc Athens Advisory Board Member.

Before arriving, Cullen had a general strategy for creating something in Athens that he would not have done in New York. He knew that it would be something made by hand with very little mechanism. And, in terms of printmaking, he wanted to work with water-based inks so that astringent substances wouldn’t be necessary for cleanup.

The journey guided by these criteria was a form of another utility in Cullen’s creative lexicon: disruption. The setting of new work parameters in a new environment limited the usual access to familiar resources that he was accustomed to relying on. The effects of such disruption were demonstrated in moments like how he spotted that “particular piece of cardboard.”

Hours of junkyard-combing for materials yielded naught. But then it caught his eye, the most common packing material—laying about just so. Cullen was struck by the correlation between the undulating corrugation of cardboard and the architectural features of Athens that he’d been gestating—from the fluting in ancient columns to the rails embedded in modern sidewalks for guiding the blind.

A few more cardboard windfalls later, new fodder was hand-worked into printing plates which were then glazed over with pouring medium—completing the first phase in collagraphy. No cardboard in New York had ever sparked such excitement in Cullen. And none may well ever as he admitted, “I would never have made these in New York.”

Statement and Testimony from Cullen

Athens is a microcosm of the globalization narrative and I was in the midst of its possible denouement. There is a strong rally for the new but the history olds strong. This is evident in the many theaters that dot the city as an ode to the antiquity of Greek drama. In addition, the centuries old Acropolis is the center stage atop an apex. Athens is a city in flux with immigrants and refugees at their door step and the dis-enfranchisement of their citizens in the aftermath of financial crisis. Athens as a culture is being redefined. Its a chance for change in a good way. I am glad I was able to be a part of that. The residency provided by the ARCAthens Organization changed the way I see the world and affirmed my beliefs in humanity. The outreach programming that Aris and Iris provided was almost turn key in its effectiveness to integrate me into the social and historic fiber of the city. In just 6 weeks I was able to grasp the gravity of the Agora, (my work is its namesake) possibly the birthplace for the assembly, human interaction, interconnectivity and democracy within Greek culture. The diversity of my neighborhood afforded me the view of not only the Acropolis but also the cultural strata that is reflective of the new color of Athens. Aris and Iris diligently laid out options almost every night for art openings and events that would surely make possible introductions to some of the leading contemporary artists the city had to offer. Pairing me with curator at large Larry Ossei Mensah was smart and balanced out ways of thinking with ways of making. This venture to Athens was my first but hopefully not my last. The residency has provided me with relationships, ways of making work and thought processes that will last for a lifetime and offer new trajectories in my art making practice. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be the first of hopefully a long list of artists and curators to follow. Thank you Aris and Iris.

With Much Gratitude,


Experimental Printmaking Residency at ARCAthens

Earlier this Fall, the very first ARCAthens/EPI Residency Program marked the beginning of an exciting series in which EPI (Experimental Printmaking Institute), in partnership with ARCAthens, invites one artist to work on a print project each Fall semester.

A professional printshop located on the Lafayette College campus, EPI is headed by Director Pedro Barbeito, who is also a member of ARCAthens’ Advisory Council. With cutting edge technologies and professional expertise, combined with digital and industrial forms of printmaking, EPI is committed to promoting student learning, community engagement and interdisciplinary exchange through collaborative print projects.

On September 16th, a few months after completing his residency in Athens as part of our Pilot Program, ARCAthens Visual Art Fellow Cullen Washington Jr arrived in Easton, PA for his printmaking residency at EPI. Over the course of five days, Cullen worked closely with EPI’s Master Printer & Shop Manager Jase Clark to produce an edition of prints—a continuation of the experimental printmaking he began in Athens in Spring.

EPI Print

University of Michigan Museum of Art Exhibition

Following his Fellowship at ARCAthens, Cullen produced a body of work that would be exhibited at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Entitled, The Public Square, the exhibition ran from January 25 through March 13, 2020. UMMA’s installation was designed with a simulated public square at its center, complete with sound components featuring noted political and aesthetic discourse and surrounded by Washington’s soaring monumental collages. Works from four earlier series by the artist form the perimeter of the Museum’s largest special exhibition space. 

In the Agoras series, Washington uses recycled canvas, paper, tape, and found objects, resulting in complex and layered works that are largely two-dimensional and visually spectacular. Experiencing the fifteen-to-twenty-foot canvases close up reveals the cinematic dimensions of their surface: their poetic and textural contours; their knotty mappings of unfolding intersections of media.

Displayed alongside Washington’s monumental Agoras are a series of smaller collage and print making works inspired by the artist’s residency in Greece at ARCAthens. Entitled Aegina, they are made using found cardboard and other urban detritus, he creates collagraphs and prints reminiscent of fossil records.