“I think somehow, these very mechanical means are able to create things that we’re very connected to as humans, things that we respond to in nature: this sense of wonder or sublime.”
Leo Villareal uses LED lights to create complex, rhythmic artworks on scales ranging from stand-alone sculptures to public infrastructure projects. Villareal is known for illuminating entire façades and bridges across the world, subtly reflecting their use, environment, and history through speed, pattern, and color. The resulting compositions are unique, generated by custom software that randomly modifies the frequency and intensity of the lights through sequencing. The artist has called his works “digital campfires,” alluding to both their enveloping quality and mesmerizing effect.
Since 2016, Villareal has been working on Illuminated River, his largest project to date commissioned by The Illuminated River Foundation. The public light installation is being unveiled in stages through 2024, and spans 14 bridges in central London, from Albert Bridge in West London to Tower Bridge in East London, unifying them in a single artwork and defining them as a sculptural and symbolic link across the capital. Prior to this, in 2013, Villareal created a 2.2-mile temporary LED installation on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. The Bays Lights, commissioned by Illuminate, became an immediate beacon representing the Bay Area. Due to popular demand the work became a permanent fixture in the city following a public outcry in 2015.
Other permanent public works include Multiverse, a tunnel installation at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Sky (2010) a façade on the Tampa Museum of Art; and Infinite Bloom (2017), an integrated outdoor ceiling piece at Amore Pacific Museum, Seoul. Villareal’s work is featured in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, among others.