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Exhibition or Catalogue Charles Searles Title 15 words max on A Focus on the 3 lines maxFigure



Charles Searles A Focus on the Figure

CONTENTS Foreword 2 An Essay on Searles 4 Illustrated Works 6 Works in the Exhibition 24

March 26 - June 15, 2013


many wonderful works on paper by her

The Patricia Van Burgh Allison

late husband, and to Woodmere’s close

Director and CEO

friend Steven Hrabrick for lending his magnificent Relaxed Traders (1972). It has been a true pleasure to work with

It is a great honor for Woodmere to

Maite Barragan, a PhD candidate in

present Charles Searles: A Focus on

art history at Tyler, who served as our

the Figure. We always seek to better

intern on this project and shouldered the

understand the works of art in our

curatorial responsibilities of selecting

collection, and we are most pleased to

the works of art, writing the wall text

show Searles’s beautiful, emotive Untitled

and labels, and authoring the essay that

(The Boxer) (1963) in the context of

appears in this catalogue. Thank you,

other, equally powerful figurative works

Maite, for your dedication to this project.

by the artist. As visitors to the concurrent

I will conclude on a personal note, and

exhibitions at La Salle University and

say that it is an extra special pleasure

Temple University’s Tyler School of Art

for me, as Woodmere’s director, to host

will be aware, Searles is known for his

this exhibition; Searles was my mother’s

large-scale, abstract sculpture; the works

friend, and I have been taken by the

on view here show an intimate side of his

brilliant colors and dynamic forms of his

oeuvre that may be less familiar, but is no

sculpture since I was a child. I am now

less wonderful. We thank Susanna Gold

thrilled to know his figurative work and

of the Art History Department at Tyler

am most grateful to everyone who made

for proposing that Woodmere participate

this exhibition a reality.

with Tyler and La Salle in this multipart examination of Searles’s career. We extend special thanks to Kathleen Spicer, Searles’s wife, for lending us the


Charles Searles, circa 1995. Photograph by Kathleen Spicer. Courtesy of Kathleen Spicer. 3


In the earliest works shown here, Searles


portrays his family, capturing his first wife, Mary, and their children in everyday situations. His close observation of

Throughout his career, Charles Searles

these intimate moments reveals the

(1937-2004) found beauty and joy in

personality traits of his subjects with

the objects and people of everyday life.

warm familiarity and affection. The

Colorful furniture, patterned clothing,

portraits of his daughters, Charmaine

and street signs were sources for his

and Vanessa, depict them in moments of

drawings and paintings.

quiet concentration.

The works in this exhibition provide

Stepping outside his home, Searles was

a glimpse of Searles’s draftsmanship;

attracted to the liveliness of the urban

the art in the exhibition show his

environment. He photographed the

experimentation with different

world around him and often utilized

techniques and media in sketches

those pictures to construct his paintings.

and finished drawings he produced

Other times, he would quickly sketch

throughout his career. We have chosen

people and scenes he came across in

to focus on his representation of the

pool halls, on the street, or at sporting

figure, since it has received little attention

events. In images such as Untitled (The

in previous exhibitions. After traveling

Boxer), (Untitled) Pool Player, and

to Africa in 1971 and 1972, Searles would

Untitled (Sitting Man) he uses pen and

begin to explore pattern and color, as

ink, a medium which requires a steady

evident in his monumental painting

hand. While he would smoothly trace the

Relaxed Traders (1974). Later on, he

outlines of his subjects, he would allow

would become known as an abstract

blots and ink splatters to appear, creating

sculptor, but this exhibition concentrates

imperfections that bring dynamism and

on the evolution of his visual language

life to the finished work. The gritty quality

and the intimate side of his production. 4

gives character to the compositions,

gave him license to stray from a tradition

evoking the textures of the city.

of mimetic aesthetics. He would continue to be drawn to the organic qualities of

Drawing directly from live models

bodies, even in his abstract works, as he

for nude studies are fundamental in

attempted to exude the color and life of

traditional art education. Searles studied

the world around him.

at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1969-1972) and his growing ease in the representation of human anatomy gave him the confidence to experiment with naturalism and abstracted forms. In much the same way as urban scenes seemed to work as an impulse for Searles to explore new forms and experiment with new media, nude studies gave him an opportunity to concentrate on finding new ways to be more descriptive. Finding that in simplifying the body he could actually give more character to his creations, he began relying more on flowing strokes that provided movement and vibrancy. For example, in Reclining Woman (1964) we see his quick motions with the pen as they trace and form the soft languid body. Stylizations that are evident in Searles’s works on paper evolved into powerful explorations of pattern, color, and energy after he experienced the arts and culture of Africa in 1971 and 1972. It is as if Africa 5


CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

In this work, one of Searles’s earliest

Untitled (The Boxer) 1963 Ink and watercolor on paper

has eliminated the background and

watercolors, Searles’s boxer is at rest, gazing out toward the ring. The artist provides only the details necessary to inform the viewer of what is going on. He concerns himself with the fighter’s facial expression, something that is lacking in other images of city characters. Although

Woodmere Art Museum: Museum purchase, 2012

Searles himself was not a combative man, he is remembered to have said on multiple occasions, “Two things you learn when you grow up in Philly: how to dance and how to fight!”



CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

Searles rarely used ballpoint pen to

Untitled (Reclining Woman) 1964 Ink on paper

leaning woman stares directly at the

draw nudes, preferring India ink for the subtleties and flow it allowed. The viewer, confronting and acknowledging her sensuality. Because Searles employed a pen and ink, he could not create the soft, diluted shadows frequently seen in his nude studies. Instead, he

Collection of Kathleen Spicer

drew multiple lines, arranging them in a way that underscores the model’s draped garments. Her large, expressive eyes recall Searles’s intimate, personal portrayals of loved ones.



CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

This early charcoal drawing is a portrait

Portrait of Mary 1965 Charcoal on paper

Mary’s attire. Searles was interested in

Collection of Kathleen Spicer

even clearer in his “Dancer” series from

of Searles’s first wife, Mary. One of the most notable features of this work is fashion from a very early age, and he even made clothes for Mary and their children. His delight in design became the 1970s, as he began to pay special attention to patterning and textiles. In this piece however, he concentrates on how Mary’s apparel builds her character. As she sits in a three-quarter pose, her stylish sunglasses don’t allow the viewer to fully engage with her. This cool attitude could seem distant, but Searles has carefully included the details of her eyes behind the lenses’ reflection.



CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

This rapid sketch was done in the same

Untitled (Pool Player) 1965 Ink on paper

since that earlier work are evident. The

Collection of Kathleen Spicer

pen away from the paper in his rush to

medium as The Boxer (see page 4), but the stylistic leaps Searles has made lines create an outline, their tangled appearance evoking a sense of urgency. It’s almost as if he does not lift the capture the instant. The pool player has a much more focused gaze than the boxer, and fewer details lend his furrowed brow a concentrated energy.



CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

Searles’s youngest daughter, Charmaine,

Untitled (Charmaine in the Hospital) 1969 Ink on paper

depicts the small child in the hospital.

passed away at age eleven from a rare form of cancer. This quiet image Her sideways glance makes her appear innocent, perhaps not entirely aware of her illness. Her small frame is almost swallowed by her surroundings, in tender recognition of the vulnerability felt by

Collection of Kathleen Spicer

both father and daughter during this time. Despite the breather that rests on Charmaine’s chest and her clinical surroundings, this remains a touching and personal piece.



CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

In moving toward abstraction, Searles

Untitled (Sitting Man) 1969 Ink and watercolor on paper

powerful presence. Here a man is seated

began geometrizing features, simplifying human forms while maintaining them as a with his legs splayed out, one large hand resting on his thigh, and his head on the other. The exaggerated qualities are further abstracted in the way Searles depicts space. The strong diagonals

Collection of Kathleen Spicer

and broken lines do not depict natural, observed space. The artist increasingly dealt with matters of arranging figures from this point forward in his career. The clash of colors, inkblots, and thick strokes add movement to the work.



CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

Relaxed Traders 1972 Oil on canvas Collection of Esther and Stephen Hrabrick



CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

Untitled (Vanessa Doing the Dishes) 1977 Ink on paper Collection of Kathleen Spicer



CHARLES SEARLES American, 1937–2004

Searles’s travels to Africa in 1971 and 1972

Masked Nude #1 1982 Acrylic on paper

style. This nude’s coloring accentuates

Collection of Kathleen Spicer

emphasizes Searles’s African inspiration.

influenced his use of color, which became an integral and identifiable part of his those qualities: she is surrounded by patterns that make it difficult to determine her precise location. Her mask Her green body, with its careful shadowing and attention to detail, retains clearly studied anatomy. The figure continued to be important to Searles, as his most abstract work from late in his career still recalls human forms.



American, 1937-2004

Untitled (Vanessa Doing the Dishes), 1977 Ink on paper, 8 x 5 in.

Untitled (The Boxer), 1963

Collection of Kathleen Spicer

Ink and watercolor on paper, 21 7/8 x 14 7/8 in.

Masked Nude #1, 1982

Woodmere Art Museum: Museum purchase, 2012

Acrylic on paper, 19 3/4 x 14 in. Collection of Kathleen Spicer

Untitled (Reclining Woman), 1964 Ink on paper, 11 x 14 in. Collection of Kathleen Spicer Portrait of Mary, 1965 Charcoal on paper, 25 x 19 in. Collection of Kathleen Spicer Untitled (Pool Player), 1965 Ink on paper, 14 x 11 in. Gift of Kathleen Spicer Untitled (Charmaine in the Hospital), 1969 Ink on paper, 8 x 9 in. Collection of Kathleen Spicer Untitled (Sitting Man), 1969 Ink and watercolor on paper, 14 x 11 in. Collection of Kathleen Spicer Relaxed Traders, 1972 Oil on canvas, 66 x 66 in. Collection of Esther and Stephen Hrabrick 24


This exhibition was supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Š 2013 Woodmere Art Museum. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher. Photography by Rick Echelmeyer unless otherwise noted. Front cover: Untitled (Boxer), 1963, by Charles Searles (Woodmere Art Museum: Museum purchase, 2012)

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Charles Searles: A Focus on the Figure