Carlos Villa

b. 1936, d. 2013, San Francisco, USA

A native San Franciscan, Carlos Villa was an artist and educator whose legacy was immeasurable. His works from the 1970s and 80s deftly reject the ethnographic terms historically ascribed to non-Western art. Combining repetitive action, performance, and activism, his abstract assemblages are visually dramatic expressions of Filipino-American identity.

For nearly fifty years, Carlos Villa has explored the meaning of cultural diversity within his art and expanded awareness of what we consider as “multicultural”. His early career was as an attempt to understand his own heritage — a complexity of Filipino traditions with its layered strains of Asian, African, Indian and Oceanic cultures, along with influences of a Western artistic tradition. Over time, his work transitioned into an exercise of creating his own visual anthropology to represent his personal background, and, in a broader sense, the dynamics of intercultural weaving.

Carlos’ work is in the permanent collections of SFMOMA, Oakland Museum of California, Columbia University, the Smithsonian, and the Whitney Museum, among many other public and private collections. His work was featured in the ‘2019-2020 Singapore Biennale’, and included in the 2022 ‘Prospect Biennale’ in New Orleans. Carlos participated in exhibitions and surveys such as the first ‘Whitney Biennial (1973)’; ‘Painting and Sculpture in the Modern Era’ (1976); ‘Under the Black Sun: California Art 1974–1981’ (2012); and the ‘Bienal de la Habana (1991)’.

In August 2021, Carlos’ work was the subject of a major retrospective. The traveling exhibition was organized by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. The exhibition catalogue featured essays by renowned scholars including Lucy Lippard, Margo Machida, Paul Karlstrom, Theo Gonzalves, Luis Francia, Patrick Flores, and Jay Xu; and was funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Biography information from FriendsIndeed.Art, May 2023

Country: Philippines / United States