Leo Villareal

  • A visitor stands immersed in front a large, glowing screen that is is filled with a blurry sea of red, pink, green, and white. The image itself is indecipherable and resembles an abstract painting with a spray paint quality.

    Leo Villareal 
    Field, 2007
    LEDs, diffusion materials, custom software, and electrical hardware
    7 x 24 feet x 15 inches
    The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Lisa and Richard Baker. 271.2008
    Courtesy Gering & López Gallery, New York

  • A digital light sculpture mounted on a wall with two cables hanging down the right edge of the photograph. Thirteen horizontal light stripes (or bands) make up an abstracted image of the American flag. The lights glow and reverberate off each other in the darkness.

    Leo Villareal
    Flag, 2008
    LED tubes, custom software, and electrical hardware
    75 x 144 x 4 inches
    Courtesy Gering & López Gallery, New York

  • Thirteen flat, cylindrical light fixtures are mounted onto a wall in the shape of an abstract snowflake. Each cylinder is lit from within projecting a blue hue, with some glowing brighter than others.

    Leo Villareal

    Metatron, 2002 (A.P., ed. 2)

    Plexiglas, incandescent light bulbs, custom software, and electrical hardware

    60 x 60 x 6 inches

    Courtesy the Artist

  • Installation of a glowing, metal screen that stretches the entire length of the room. The screen is lit from within or from behind and resembles an abstract map like a satellite image of a city from space. The space is dark and the lights reflect against the dark cement floor.

    Leo Villareal
    Diamond Sea, 2007 
    White LEDs, mirror finished stainless steel, custom software, and electric hardware
    120 x 180 x 6 inches
    Courtesy Gering & López Gallery, New York


  • A round light sculpture is mounted onto a wall. The surface of the sculpture glows with hundreds of dots lit in varying hues of purple and blue to green and yellow at the center. The glowing lights are arranged in a circular shape which morphs into a flower towards the middle.

    Leo Villareal
    Big Bang, 2008 (A.P., ed. 3)
    LEDs, aluminum, custom software, and electrical hardware
    59 x 59 x 8 inches
    Courtesy Conner Contemporary Art, Washington, DC
    Photograph by James Ewing Photography


    Leo Villareal is a pioneer in the use of LEDs and computer-driven imagery and known both for his light sculptures and architectural, site-specific works. This exhibition, his first major traveling museum survey, seeks to place Villareal’s body of work within the continuum of contemporary art. Born in Albuquerque, NM, in 1967 and raised in El Paso, TX, and in northern Mexico, Villareal began his studies in stage design and art at Yale University, New Haven, CT. He later pursued graduate studies at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, NY, and from 1994 to 1997, worked on cutting-edge virtual reality projects at Paul Allen’s Interval Research Corporation in Palo Alto, California. In 1994, Villareal first attended the counterculture festival Burning Man, which inspired him to begin creating immersive experiences on a larger scale. In 1997, he programmed a 16-light strobe structure that he brought to Burning Man. Originally conceived as a nighttime wayfinding device using pulsing light, the simple piece was well received and became the precursor to his work in the light medium. 

    This exhibition and its catalogue explore how Villareal presents a new vision of art that responds and relates to the innovations of the 21st-century, using computer code and new technology as a medium for abstraction.

    Enhance your viewing experience! Download a FREE soundtrack for the exhibition.

    Leo Villareal on his artistic process

    Exhibition schedule:

    • August  21, 2010 – January 9, 2011: San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA
    • March 5 – May 22, 2011: Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV
    • June 24, 2011 – September 18, 2011: Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS
    • February 3 – June 3, 2012: Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, GA
    • September 9 – December 30, 2012: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Wisconsin


    • Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation
    • The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
    • Bank of America