Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia:
Bullock, Searles, Twins Seven-Seven
February 8 - September 7, 2020
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia
"Animal Healer," 1990, gouache on shaped paper, 67" 40," Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
"First Flight," 1982, acrylic on masonite and wood, 89"x47"x46," Jim's of Lambertville.
Untitled, 2009, ink, watercolor, and acrylic on paper, 14"x 17," private collection
Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia explores the collaborative cross-fertilization of ideas and assertions of African and African American cultural identity. Barbara Bullock, Charles Searles, and Twins Seven-Seven participated in the activities of the Ile-Ife Black Humanitarian Center, established in 1969 by dancer and choreographer Arthur Hall to offer visual arts, performance, and musical arts classes and programs for the Philadelphia community. Deriving its name from the ancient Yoruba city held to be the site of the world’s creation Ile-Ife focused on educating audiences in traditional African culture and aesthetics and infusing African and African-inspired art forms into contemporary Philadelphia experience. Bullock and Searles formed Ile-Ife’s art department, while Twins Seven-Seven introduced authentic Yoruba culture and aesthetics into its activities. Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia examines the work of these artists and the formative experiences at Ile-Ife that expanded their understanding of the richness of African traditions.
"After these long gray months, the Woodmere show feels like an explosion of life. The works incorporate the gestures and rhythms of African dance that was at the heart of Ile-Ife, and the colors and patterns in [Barbara] Bullock's and [Charles] Searles' work are wonderfully vibrant. . . Searles was the first graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to use a traveling fellowship to go to Africa. . . The African inspiration lies in his ebullient use of bold, clashing patterns. A few years later, exploration of juxtaposed pattern and ornament would become an art world trend, but Searles' work has a sense of music and movement that is unique. . . It's a great show to help you open your eyes again."
- Thomas Hine, "After a long break, a fresh look at art," Philadephia Inquirer, July 26, 2020. Read the full review HERE.
"Woodmere Museum of Art’s exhibition illustrates a particular confluence in the arts in Philadelphia in the lives of many of its citizens.
That between a civilization in West Africa, its spiritual and cultural norms as expressed in its art forms and the inheritors of this civilization, no matter where in the world they are now. No clearer example of the power of art to connect, communicate, inspirit, enliven.”
- Sarah Abraham, “The Long Reach of the Orishas: West Africa in the Art and Life of Philadelphia, on Vin de Vie Art of Life, February 27, 2020. Read the full review HERE.
Dancers, 1976, acrylic on canvas, 70” x 68.5"
"Water Bearers," 1996, watercolor on paper, 31.25" x 22.75." Private collection
"Beasts Birds Reptiles in Sun Worshiping Gathering," c. 1980, watercolor and marker mixed media, 23.75" x 18," Woodmere Art Museum
"Stiltdancer," 1982, acrylic on canvas, 96"x84". African American Museum in Philadelphia