This week we are visiting the International Hotel / Manilatown Heritage Foundation Center, to hear about the work of activists and artists in the I-Hotel movement from Tony Robles, nephew of the late “poet laureate of Manilatown,” Al Robles. He will expound on what we have read this week- tracking earlier migrations of Filipinos to the Bay Area, before the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act allowed for later migrants to suburbs like Daly City.
Villa, like Al Robles, grew up in one of the only Filipino families in San Francisco, at a time when immigration from the Philippines was largely restricted to bachelor men. Born and raised in the Tenderloin, growing up around the manongs of Manilatown, and going to the bars and jazz clubs in the Fillmore, he also had a very different background from his fellow CSFA / SFAI colleagues and teachers. How do we see a melding of Villa’s personal experiences in San Francisco and his training at CSFA reflected in works like “My Father Seeing Market Street For the First Time” (see previous blog post for image)? Does knowing VIlla’s background change your impression of earlier and later abstract works such as the following door piece, from his My Uncles series of 1991?
We also read this week an essay from the exhibition catalog for At Home and Abroad: 20 Contemporary Filipino Artists, where they write in part of the Indigenous Art Movement of the 1970s. How do we reconcile Villa’s uses of indigenous motifs in early works like “Tatu” with these other types of pieces? Do you see as “more” Filipino/American these indigenous-inspired motifs or his abstracted negotiations with the history of the manongs– and why?