top of page
  • Writer's pictureartistsinrise


Updated: Dec 17, 2021

Primer 2, 2021. ​​​​​​​Image courtesy of Cullen Washington Jr.'s Studio.

Scars. Mended flesh. Memorialized wounds. Reminders of time, space, existence.

Cullen Washington Jr. is an abstract painter who contemplates the experience of Black scarring in his latest series Primers. These large scale paintings conjure thoughts of human history and experience. The injustices of modernity acted out by humanity, on humanity, for the advancement of industry. They go beyond the physical aspects of pain in real time and raise a sense of existential questioning. How did these scars come to be? How have they healed?

Each piece is composed of collaged paper, to which Washington reveals that “as I mend the paper together, they mend wounds.” The resulting compositions are based on a grid where space is flattened and time is suspended. Throughout this series, Washington uses graphite, charcoal, ground mineral pigments and ink, “a primordial mixture using the basic element carbon found in most natural phenomena” to create allotropic surfaces. CMYK: cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the pigments used in printing systems, are the colors used to compose and softly disrupt the seemingly impenetrable blackness.

Primer 3, 2021. ​​​​​​​Image courtesy of Cullen Washington Jr.'s Studio.

Primer 3 is grounded on a 2x3, 92”x 44” rectangular grid. The edges of each panel look as though they have been welded together. Midnight blacks and ghostly greys swim across the typographic surface of the grid. Three vertical beams of ultra light yellows and magentas pulsate back and forth into space. On the left side is a yellow beam centered almost perfectly within the first panel of the grid and bleeding out toward the sides into ambient magentas. The welded edges of the left panels of the grid are untouched by this beam's light. Towards the center-right side of the canvas, the beams have a stronger presence relative to the black planes. The horizontal grid lines disappear as they intersect with the radiant vertical magenta and yellow lines, while the black vertical line is emphasized. The effect is a breaking up of time and space. A temporary portal that extends beyond the vast grid into another realm entirely.

Primer 4, 2021. Image courtesy of Cullen Washington Jr.'s Studio.