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  • Writer's pictureMonica

Interview with Leo Villareal: The ‘modern sculptor of light’ on what goes on behind the Screens

Part engineer, part sculptor, part electrician, part coder: the American artist Leo Villareal has captured the attention of audiences across the world with his mesmerizing, light-driven work. With installations in San Francisco, London, Auckland and Florida his work is both exclusive as it is accessible, balancing the fine line between hype and down to earth.

His latest body of work “Nebulae” is part of Villareal’s first solo exhibition in Switzerland, which is being shown at Pace Gallery in Geneva. We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions on what goes on behind the scenes and screens of his creative process.

Leo Villareal’s Nebulae Series — Photo credits: Annik Wetter, courtesy Pace Gallery

You’re often referred to as the “painter of light” – can you give us a bit more context on your creative process and describe how you “paint” – from the spark of an idea to a finished piece of work?

While I would never refer to myself as a painter of light, that is a pretty accurate description of what I do when I use custom software and lights as a tool to explore the ideas and concepts that I am interested in. For the Nebulae, I start with what I would call a canvas, an array of LEDs, diffused with acrylic. I then use my custom software to create sequences on that canvas. I employ concepts of emergent behavior and artificial life in this process. I’m often thinking about both the smallest microscopic elements in our world, as well as the largest cosmic, planetary and spatial interactions, and am using these custom tools I’ve created to generate these occurrences, and I then capture when something compelling occurs. These discoveries become the building blocks for the artworks. I layer them together and present them in a random order, for a random amount of time.

Legend has it, the Burning Man festival in 1997 was the lightbulb moment for you, can you share a bit more on that?

I started attending Burning Man in 1994, and my first experience was getting profoundly lost. I set up my tent and went out to explore, and then realized I didn’t know how to get home, which was a surprising thing for a 20 year old to experience...

Read the full story on the original publication from 31st January 2023 on medium here.

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