Week 5: Ritual and 60 Forms of Utang

A post from Jevi. You can comment on this post up through Friday this week, since it was posted belatedly.

In this week’s topic on Indigenous Roots and Rituals, it is interesting to discuss the parallelism between Carlos Villa’s Atang and Lucy Lippard’s Telling, particularly the struggles of artists of color in their art practice and everyday life. Although Lucy Lippard speaks about “artists of color” in general ( from African American, Latin Americans to Native Americans..) Carlos Villa tells stories of Asian Americans in the Bay Area on a personal level.
What do artists of color have in common?  Especially those who migrated and grew up in the United States. Why are hybridity, fusion and syncretism very important subjects in Lucy Lippard’s article? Why are storytelling and personal narratives  very important methods or strategies used by artists of color to understand one’s “roots” and history?
Do you think Carlos Villa’s storytelling method in “60 Forms of Utang”– about artists he admires– is an effective way of narrating the “forgotten” history of Asian American artists in the Bay Area? As Villa mentioned in Atang No. 53, “..history belongs to those in power.”
In both articles, art is often mentioned as survival mechanism; do you think art can be used as a form of ritual like Atang or Santeria to “ward off evil spirits” by artists of color in order to survive our contemporary society?  Can artists still be griot- story teller of the past or shaman-a healer of the future in the 21st century? 

Week 4: The Manongs of Manilatown

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?

Carlos Villa, Tatu

Week 3: Asian American Modernism

So we’re up and running with the semester, and I look forward to reading your comments and responses to the posts on this blog!

This week, I’d like us to consider the category of “Asian American modernism” that Paul Karlstrom works through in his article “Postwar California” in Asian American Art: A History 1850-1970. Karlstrom begins his article by asking: “Is there an Asian American modernism that reflects–as in the multifaceted hall of mirrors to which modernism has been compared–shared experience? Or are we finally obliged to consider individuals in terms of their participation within the broader modernist concept?” (231). He then goes on to profile a handful of artists whose work variously incorporated, challenged, and/or disavowed influences from the Asia-Pacific— from the “inauthentic” Japanese identity played with in Isamu Noguchi’s work to the Zen Buddhist influences on Hodo Tabase and Shunryu Suzuki” (Karlstrom 236-7). Karlstrom spends a short moment of time discussing Carlos Villa and his practice of “community-directed modernism,” differentiating this from the other kinds of modernist aesthetics discussed earlier in the chapter (251).

Based on this article and what you have already seen of Carlos Villa’s visual art, do you find this categorization of Villa’s work as modernist to hold? By what standards do you evaluate his work as modernist– do you use the kinds of criteria that Susan Landauer or Thomas Albright (from week 2 readings) have for defining a work as a member of a movement or a school (such as the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism)? How much does the outwards-directed model of action (what Karlstrom calls “community-directed modernism”)  impact your understanding of Villa’s work as modernist, versus other kinds of criteria?

Finally, do you agree that we need to have a different set of criteria for evaluating “Asian American” art, or do you think there should be a universal standard for evaluating a work’s merit? If universal, what factors should these judgments be based on? You should think about how this week’s readings by Johnson, Chang, and Karlstrom evaluate artists and categorize them into discernible movements/schools/traditions versus the readings from last week by Landauer and Albright.

Carlos Villa, "My Dad Seeing Market St. for the First Time" (1979), acrylic, beads, electrical wire, shells on unstretched canvas, 80 x 103 inches

Carlos Villa, “My Dad Seeing Market St. for the First Time” (1979), acrylic, beads, electrical wire, shells on unstretched canvas, 80 x 103 inches

Posting reminders: your response to this post should be a minimum of 2 paragraphs long (4-6 sentences per paragraph). Engage with the readings from this week and last week to support your response, citing properly using MLA or Chicago-style citations. Sign your name to the end of your post so you can receive credit for your writing.

Mabuhay! Welcome!

This is the blog for the Spring 2015 course Carlos Villa: Predecessors, Contemporaries, Legacies at the San Francisco Art Institute. The seminar is led by Thea Quiray Tagle, with assistance from Jevijoe Vitug. It is our hope that the conversations and questions generated here by the collaborators in this seminar will become a resource for others interested in Filipino/American art, culture, and performance and in the work and legacy of the late Carlos Villa (1936-2013). Mabuhay (Welcome) to all!