June 17, 2022 to September 03, 2022

Carlos Villa: Roots and Reinvention

Part of a first-ever museum retrospective of iconic San Francisco born Filipino American Artist and Educator, Carlos Villa at San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries and Asian Art Museum

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Main Gallery, in partnership with the Asian Art Museum and San Francisco Art Institute, presents the dynamic and groundbreaking work of Filipino American artist and educator, Carlos Villa (1936-2013) starting June 17, 2022.  

Carlos Villa: Roots and Reinvention, curated by Mark Dean Johnson and Trisha Lagaso Goldberg, will highlight Villa’s art from the 1980s and 1990s, a period of reinvention for Villa, presenting Villa’s practice at a turning point as he began to shift away from the large abstract paintings and feather-based works that he became known for, to pieces that delve into the history of Filipinos in the U.S., what it means to be a part of a diaspora, and his own family archives.  

This multi-venue exhibition will celebrate Villa’s legacy, featuring renowned works that explore his Filipino ancestry, profound connection with non-Western cultures and rituals, and impact on the art world today, giving viewers the opportunity to experience the work of an artist with deep ties to the City and who was an influential thinker, community organizer and dedicated educator. 

Troubled by a teacher’s comment that “there is not Filipino art history,” Villa began to study the art and ethnography of Africa, Oceania, the Pacific, Latin America, and Australia in search of his cultural roots. Deeply inspired by the late-1960s Bay Area Third World Liberation consciousness—which spoke to solidarity building between cultures—these ideas were reflected in Villa’s approach to art making.  

The exhibition’s chronology begins with Villa’s pivotal performance Ritual, which took place in 1980 at The Farm, a renowned artist-run site for convenings and performance in San Francisco. A full body cast and documentation of the performance showcase Villa’s insistence on figuring and representing his body in his practice and exploring ways to activate a space and objects through ceremony and ritual. Large scale works consisting of layers of impressions made by applying paint to his own skin and pressing into the canvas are additional demonstrations of how the artist utilized ritual-like actions to create paintings. 

Villa taught at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) for over four decades and was as known for being an instructor and champion of cross-cultural arts education as he was for being an artist.  

Exhibition co-curator, Trisha Lagaso Goldberg, reflects on Villa’s legacy: “Carlos was the first multi-hyphenate being I ever met. A true visionary art-, community- and thought-leader. He propped the door wide open for others to enter, held and an expansive space for the marginalized, and made work about being Filipino unapologetically. Through his mixed-media works, which span forty plus years, we see an artist who understands what it means to build worlds across cultures, time, identities, generations and borders.” 

Additional exhibitions in the retrospective  
Carlos Villa: Worlds in Collision (June 17 – October 24, 2022) is co-organized by the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Art Institute and features mostly large-scale artworks created in the 1970s and early 1980s. The highly textured work freely references non-Western sources as well as Villa’s own personal history. Villa drew on African, Asian, and Oceanic art and religion, and he incorporated unexpected materials ranging from hair, spit, and sperm to shells, feathers, mirrors, and silk. He even used his own body and face as a “brush” to impart a kind of signature. The exhibition is accompanied by an original, fully illustrated catalog published by the University of California Press with essays by renwoned scholars including Patrick Flores, Luis Francia, Theodore Gonzalves, Paul Karlstrom, Lucy Lippard, and Margo Machida. 

This retrospective is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the National Endowment for the Arts and the San Francisco Arts Commission. SFAI's project leadership is made possible from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. The SFAC Galleries wishes to thank public programs partner SOMA Pilipinas Filipino Cultural Heritage District and Grants for the Arts. 


Image credit: Carlos Villa, My Father Walking Up Kearny Street for the First Time, 1995 (detail). Courtesy of Jose Isidro N. Camacho and Maria Clara Acuno Camacho and the Estate of Carlos Villa. Photo by Aaron Wojack.

Carlos Villa: Roots and Reinvention (SF/Arts Monthly)

Your Guide to This Summer’s Don’t-Miss Visual Art Shows (KQED)

9 Bay Area Art Exhibits You Can't Miss This Summer (San Francisco Chronicle)

S.F. artist Carlos Villa was told there was no such thing as ‘Filipino art.’ So he made history (San Francisco Chronicle)

Filipino American artist's work makes history in San Francisco exhibits (San Francisco Examiner)

Carlos Villa Retrospective At The Asian Shows How The Iconic Sf Artist Sought To Decolonize The Art World (SF Gate)

Erasing Erasure: Two Historic Exhibits Cement the Legacy of Late Filipino Artist Carlos Villa (SF Standard)

Review: Carlos Villa (Square Cylinder

What's Coming Up

Public Meeting

Visual Arts Committee Meeting

April 17
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 416 and Online
Public Meeting

Executive Committee Meeting

December 18
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM

Hybrid: 401 Van Ness | Rm 125 and Online
Public Meeting

Community Investments Committee Meeting

December 09
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 416 and Online
Public Meeting

Full Arts Commission Meeting

May 06
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Hybrid: City Hall | Rm 416 and Online