To sculpt out of light? Ethereal as it sounds, Leo Villareal is an American artist who carves beautiful visuals using LED lights. Ready for a pleasant surprise? He sculpts light through encoded computer programming. To be aesthetic and technical at the same time, is the twist of the moment and Villareal has proven to be the lord and the master of this trend.
On receiving a BA certificate in sculpture from Yale University in 1990, he went on to attain a graduate degree from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). He has permanent installations at many prolific museums and art galleries and he has also embarked his works in the private collections of innumerable art lovers. He is currently represented by a blue chip gallery named the Pace Gallery.Carefully, his fingers brush through the laptop keypad to create computer codes and programs that would magically bring to life white, iridescent and neon hues. He was deeply influenced by Dan Flavin, the systems-based theories of British mathematician, John Conway, and the human inclination to find patterns in randomness. Claiming that his works are portraits of Conway’s rules, Leo Villareal programs his lights to pulse in non-repeating sequences that simultaneously defy and suggest order. His works portray a mischievous play with light, dark and the fact that he also embraces to sculpt darkness that gives existence to light. His works are titled in a mix of philosophy, science and vogue which gathers more fans. “Buckyball”, “Chasing Rainbows”, “Dark Matrix”, “Particle field” are some of his captivating works.Leo Villareal was honoured through the profound documentary, “Impossible Light”, which was directed by Jeremy Ambers, and was released in 2014. The documentary takes us on the journey that Villareal and his team took up to shred the darkness off of the 1.8 mile Western Span of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge by installing around 25,000 LED lights.
“In 2011, I stumbled into the unbelievable concept of turning an entire region’s traffic workhorse into a stunning, abstract light sculpture that changes an entire city’s skyline every night from dusk ‘til dawn,” Villareal told the director of the documentary.
The seeming impossibility of the task gripped Villareal for a few weeks who didn’t know that his future work would be the largest electronic installation in the world. As he remarks, “In the beginning, when the installation was still an idea, I couldn’t conceive of how they would do it. That immediately made me interested. On one side, you have paperwork, permits, and all sorts of government agencies with endless red tape. On the other, you have a massive engineering structure meant to provide a very practical service to the region, which is now being viewed as an abstract canvas for contemporary art.”When we jostle upon artists like Leo Villareal who proves that mere will power can help us achieve impossible things, we get to believe that we really can paint our own canvas. And yes, Leo Villareal has left his signature with light that can be viewed from the sky.