sfai news

April 12, 2012

Faculty member Carlos Villa receives prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship

The San Francisco Art Institute is proud to announce that Carlos Villa, a faculty member in the school’s Painting department since 1969, has received a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship. This prestigious award is given on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise to people working in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Villa’s body of work encompasses painting, collage, performance, curating, cultural activism, and community actions, often exploring his identity as a Filipino American.

“I am absolutely thrilled that Carlos has been honored with this fellowship,” said SFAI President Charles Desmarais. “His work as an artist engages essential questions of cultural identity, and has been central to expanding our understanding of multiculturalism. Over more than four decades at SFAI, he has also proved deeply committed to his role as a teacher, and the hundreds—if not thousands—of student artists he has mentored further speak to his passion, integrity, and influence.”

Born in San Francisco, Villa enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts (now SFAI) in 1958. In the 1960s, he began to draw influence from African, New Guinea, Aboriginal, and Polynesian ritualistic art, incorporating materials including acrylic paint, canvas, cowry shells, blood, bone, spit, sperm, hair, teeth, silk ribbon, mirror, and feathers. Many of his later works take the form of painted wooden doors or containers, grooved and lined with a woodworker’s awl, that conjure ideas of memory, language, transiency, and the Filipino American experience.

At SFAI, Villa teaches courses in painting, drawing, and collage. In his teaching philosophy, Villa states: “As an artist/teacher I need to be constantly active in my studio and immersed in my work to be able to return to encourage and challenge artist/students at the institution as a teacher. I am inspired. For me, ‘Artist/teacher’ is one word.”

Villa is the subject of the recent book Carlos Villa and the Integrity of Spaces (Meritage Press, 2011), in which the editor, Theodore Gonzalves, calls him the most significant U.S.-based visual artist of Filipino descent of the twentieth century. An exhibition of the same name will be on view at the Honolulu Academy of Art Center at Linekona this fall. Villa was also honored in 2011 with the survey exhibition Manongs, Some Doors, and a Bouquet of Crates at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco.

Among Villa’s major community actions is the project Rehistoricizing Abstract Expressionism in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1950s-1960s, a 2010 exhibition, symposium, and website (http://rehistoricizing.org/) that presents the work of women artists and artists of color from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds who worked in a “pre post-race” environment, and who were undervalued because of the social and aesthetic conditions at that time. Villa also created “Worlds In Collision,” an interdisciplinary curriculum, symposium series, and Filipino American art history website (www.worldsincollision.org).

Villa’s work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the American Academy in Rome. Other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the Adeline Kent Award, a Pollock-Krasner Award in Painting, and a Cultural Equity Grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission.

View a slideshow of his work on the Guggenheim Foundation website.