Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Carlos Villa: Worlds in Collision

Jun 17, 2022 – Oct 24, 2022
Lee Gallery, Osher Foundation Gallery, Shriram Learning Center

Carlos Villa: Worlds in Collision invites you into Villa's spectacular, visually magical worlds of feathers and photographs, capes and masks, bones and tattoos.

“I think art is boundless. Art has no horizon.”—Carlos Villa


San Francisco-born Carlos Villa (1936–2013) was a groundbreaking American artist whose work broadened the horizons of 20th-century modernism. His search for personal and aesthetic meaning in his own Filipino heritage and global indigenous cultures led him to develop an original and expansive approach to art and the role of the artist.   

Carlos Villa: Worlds in Collision invites you into Villa’s spectacular, visually magical worlds of feathers and photographs, capes and masks, bones and tattoos. The first major museum retrospective dedicated to the work of a Filipino American artist, it celebrates Villa’s exuberant work and enduring influence as a teacher, curator, and activist.  

The exhibition focuses on Villa’s drawings, mixed-media paintings, and constructions from the 1970s, the decade when the artist burst onto the art scene with a vibrant, multicultural aesthetic. In this period, he experimented with combining the techniques of Western painting with materials and forms of non-Western art, connecting with global tribal and ethnographic traditions to explore his own identity. This rich mix of influences became the hallmark of his creative output.


“Terrific. . . . a fascinating document of Villa’s bold and experimental self-expression.” —The New York Times


Worlds in Collision also includes artworks that show Villa exploring his cultural identity through his own body. For example, Villa painted Maori-inspired tattoos on an image of his own face in Tat2 (1971), which represents his growing desire to show his identification with indigenous peoples throughout the Pacific and the Americas.

Villa’s turn to his ethnic roots as a way to inform his art, his positioning of himself and his work within a larger cross-cultural lineage and community, and his commitment to grassroots activism now seem prescient. He self-consciously created a foundation for succeeding generations of Asian American and other diasporic artists to build upon, “so that [they] won’t have to ‘recuperate’ or ‘reinvent’ themselves in the same way that I and other artists who preceded them have had to do.” Presentations in Lee Gallery and the Shriram Experiential Learning Center showcase the work of select Filipino American artists that Villa mentored during his 40 years as a professor at the San Francisco Art Institute, including Michael Arcega in collaboration with Paolo Asuncion; Lian Ladia in collaboration with Sherwin Rio; Paul Pfeiffer; and the trio of Eliza O. Barrios, Reanne Estrada, and Jenifer K Wofford, as artist collective, the Mail Order Brides/M.O.B.

Villa has justly been called the most important Filipino American artist of the 20th century and has long been known as an “artist’s artist.” Worlds in Collision shows us that he also deserves to be recognized as one of the most important artists of his generation.

“Powerful…visual magic.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Breakthrough.” —Hyperallergic

“Makes Filipino Art History.”—W

“Transformational… broadens the horizon.” —Juxtapoz

“Brims with celebration.” —San Francisco Examiner


“Illuminates the global importance of Villa’s art.” —Travel Mag

“Much-anticipated.” —KQED


The Story Continues 

Carlos Villa: Roots and Reinvention 

San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries: Jun 17–Sep 3

Carlos Villa: Roots and Reinvention highlights Villa’s later art, which delves into the history of Filipino communities in America, immigration, and Villa’s own family archives. SFAC is within walking distance of the Asian Art Museum and can be easily visited the same day. Learn more…

Carlos Villa: Worlds in Collision

Images: Ritual (detail), 1970–1971, by Carlos Villa (American, 1936–2013). Mixed media on unstretched canvas. Estate of Carlos Villa. Photography © Estate of Carlos Villa. Photograph by Jay Jones. Tat2 (detail), 1971, from the Tatu series, by Carlos Villa (American, 1936–2013). Ink on ITEK photograph. Estate of Carlos Villa. Photography © Estate of Carlos Villa.

Download our self-guided Contemporary Art audio tour to listen to artists and curators discuss contemporary works on view throughout the museum.

Organizers & Sponsors

Carlos Villa: Worlds in Collision is co-organized by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI).

This exhibition is made possible with the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation and The Bernard Osher Foundation. 

Logo for the Bernard Osher Foundation

The presentation at the Asian Art Museum is supported by Malou Babilonia, Crisanto and Evelyn Raimundo, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and an anonymous donor.

Sustained support generously provided by the Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Endowment Fund for Exhibitions and the Kao/Williams Contemporary Art Exhibitions Fund.

The presentation at SFAI is made possible with major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.      

More to Explore