From our friends at Big Red & Shiny, today we bring you a review of Cullen Washington Jr.’s paintings at 808 Gallery at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. Author Shawn Hill points out, “Washington has embraced the American tradition of the readymade (Duchamp) and junk art (Kienholz) in creating these paintings, which draw from the past but refer to the still-charged state of race relations and cultural politics in the present day.” This article was originally published on February 26, 2014.
Cullen Washington Jr.’s enigmatic large-scale paintings, constructions, and prints amply fill half of the cavernous space at 808 Gallery (the other half is given over to a group show comprising mixed-media works and performance). Washington Jr.’s paintings have to speak loudly to compete with such a frequently frenetic setting, and they hold up quite well.
If I allude to several previous artists in this review, it is not because I find Washington’s work derivative. Rather, I think he’s working in the established tradition of modernism/postmodernism, and that he’s as conscious of these influences as I am. Some of those called to mind are due to techniques of style and execution. Others because they, like Washington, confronted issues of race in America while trying to construct a self-identity revealed at least in part through their art-making processes.