Sunday, April 28, 2013

PHILADELPHIA: Charles Searles

Charles Searles, Dancer, 1980, Acrylic on canvas, 73” x 49”. Collection of Barbara Bullock. ©Searles Spicer Estate.

Two Shows, One Artist

TEXT | REBECCA BORISON, Daily News Staff Writer
PUBLISHED | - April 26, 2013

Charles Searles studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but found his true inspiration from his travels in Africa.

The artist died in 2004, but his sculptures and paintings are in museums around the world. This spring, Philadelphians have two opportunities to see his work at La Salle University and Temple University. La Salle's exhibition continues through May 31, while the show at Temple's Tyler School of Art continues through June 16.

Searles loved art from early childhood. Born here in 1937, he attended classes at Fleisher Art Memorial as a youth but ended up working as a house painter and renovator in his father's business, according to a biography on the website run by his wife, sculptor Kathleen Spicer. A stint in the Army, a first marriage and several kids came next, though he still pursued fine arts, entering PAFA in the late '50s.

The artist traveled to Africa on scholarship in the early 1970s, and what he found there infused his paintings and sculpture for the rest of his life.

Sande Webster, owner for many years of an eponymous Philadelphia art gallery that specialized in African-American artists, met Searles about 30 years ago and was instantly impressed.

"His work was excellent," she said. "Absolutely excellent. He was probably one of the premier artists from the East Coast."

When Webster first opened her gallery, African-American artists were struggling to acquire the attention that their white peers received. Searles helped change that. According to his wife, Searles participated in more than 60 group and 25 solo exhibits.

Klare Scarborough, director at the La Salle art museum said she was excited to add to that number.

"I've long been familiar with Charles Searles's artwork," she said. "I've always loved his artwork. When this opportunity came up, I just kind of jumped at it."

Scarborough aims to attract both La Salle students and neighborhood youth with Searles's "colorful, vibrant, upbeat" artwork.

"His vision of life, his world vision [that] you see through his artwork is a very uplifting, positive vision that I think schoolchildren and certainly the educators really appreciate," Scarborough said. "I think it's the kind of vision that really speaks to larger audiences too."

Charles Searles: The Mask of Abstraction
March 11 – May 31, 2013
1900 West Olney Avenue
Philadelphia, PA

Charles Searles: In Motion
April 20 – June 16, 2013
Temple University
2001 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Charles Searles: A Focus on the Figure
March 25 – June 11, 2013
9201 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA

New Depths (1989 large wall sculpture)
On view January  through May 2013
Tuttleman Sculpture Gallery
Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building, Second Floor
118-128 Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA

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