Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Silverlens presents works of Carlos Villa at Frieze London 2023

The suite by the late Filipino-American artist, educator, and activist features his body prints from the 1980s

Carlos Villa, Space Case, 1980, acrylic and collaged canvas on unstretched canvas, 90h x 87w inches, 228.60h x 220.98w cm Courtesy of The Estate of Carlos Villa and Silverlens, Manila and New York

Silverlens is pleased to announce its participation in Frieze London 2023 with a solo presentation by pioneering Filipino American modernist Carlos Villa (1936–2013). Silverlens will showcase a suite of paintings from the 1980s, in which he used his own face, hands, and body to create monoprints in an exploration of Filipino identity. The presentation will mark the first time Villa’s work has been shown in London, and honors the 10th anniversary of the artist’s death.

On the occasion of its own 20th anniversary, Frieze has called on several renowned artists to nominate other artists to present solo projects in the fair’s invitation-only Artist-to-Artist section. Artist nominators include Wolfgang Tillmans, Haegue Yang, Olafur Eliasson, Tracey Emin, Simone Leigh, and Anthea Hamilton. Silverlens was selected by Anthea Hamilton to present Villa’s work.

Carlos Villa was a Filipino American artist, grassroots activist, curator, author, and 40+ year educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. He created strangely human works that challenged colonial perspectives and laid radical claim to a cross-cultural, diasporic identity. In 2022, Villa received the first-ever major museum retrospective in the United States dedicated to the work of a Filipino-American artist, which toured three venues on both coasts.

Villa’s enduring impact extends beyond his visual art. As an educator, he developed a renowned curriculum that merged critical race theory and active volunteerism, reimagining the role of contemporary artists. Over the years, he mentored students such as Kehinde Wiley, Iona Rozeal Brown, and Paul Pfeiffer, among many others. He additionally founded the highly influential symposia series “Sources of a Distinct Majority,” which brought together community and cultural leaders.

Esteemed speakers and collaborators included Angela Davis, bell hooks, Ruth Asawa, Martin Puryear, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Through his multifaceted work, Villa aimed to challenge the established canon and rewrite history to honor those who have been marginalized.

Silverlens’ presentation at Frieze London highlights Villa’s body print works from the 1980s, in which he used his own body, hands, and face to create indexical marks on the canvas. Unlike Yves Klein, who utilized female models as printing tools, Villa foregrounded his own form, as though urging us to acknowledge his Filipino presence. The canvases come alive with imprints of the artist, as if he himself is present in the room, even a decade after his passing.

Villa foregrounded his own form, as though urging us to acknowledge his Filipino presence

Recently at Frieze New York 2023, Silverlens showcased a solo presentation of Carlos Villa chronicling the artist’s work from 1960 to 2000—and his lasting influence on audiences. Running concurrently with Frieze London, Remains of Surface, a duo exhibition featuring the work of Carlos Villa and his life-long friend Leo Valledor (1936–1989), another trailblazing Filipino American modernist, is being exhibited at Silverlens New York through 4 November 2023.

Carlos Villa was a Filipino-American artist, curator, and beloved educator. He considered interactions with students and younger artists as important collaborative actions that were essential to his artistic practice. This idea may have been a partial response to an encounter he had as a student himself, when a professor told him that “Filipino art history does not exist.” This statement eventually led Villa to search for and cull references from a global range of indigenous cultures and practices. When his work centers traces of his own body and movement, it can evoke various ritualistic practices that are free from “art pedestals.” He often used materials such as feathers, bone, hair, and indexical prints that are unexpected in the accepted art canon. His work is a collage of touchstones, histories, and connections that creates space for other artists to challenge colonial primacy through a radical foregrounding of cross-cultural, diasporic identities.

In 2022, Villa’s museum retrospective went from the Newark Museum of Art to the San Francisco Art Institute and Asian Art Museum. Villa founded the highly influential symposia series “Sources of a Distinct Majority,” which brought together community and cultural leaders.


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