Leo Villareal Public Art Installation Illuminates the new Tampa Museum of Art

New York-based digital light artist Leo Villareal’s recent completion of Sky (Tampa) on the south façade of the new Tampa Museum of Art features a dramatic 12,000-square-foot public art commission that illuminates the downtown core. The exterior of the new museum features programmable LED lights, 45 feet high and 300 feet long, embedded within two-layers of perforated aluminum panels. In daylight, the museum’s façade creates a moiré-like pattern, and in darkness the LED light installation glows with Villarreal’s signature light-coded and hypnotic dance.

Leo Villareal

Sky (Tampa) showcases movement and light; a sequencing of patterns created by Villareal’s custom coded software that emerge as a whole and result in random templates of flash, fade, trail and color. The matrix of 144 four-foot light emitting diode illuminators and 28 Inablers display a visual language of non-repeating patterns.

“We were committed to the incorporation of a permanent public art component as part of the new museum,” said Todd D. Smith, the museum’s executive director. “LED lights were always a part of the overall design of the museum’s architect, Stanley Saitowitz. It was vitally important to commission an artist who understood the importance of the relationship between the museum’s new structure, the landscape, and the public realm. Leo is one of the pioneers in utilizing light media within the context of architecture. We could not think of a more appropriate artist to significantly enhance the museum and engage the public than Leo Villareal.”

The museum will organize a temporary exhibition of Leo’s works for summer/fall 2010 to provide a context for our visitors to experience the range of his creations. Sky (Tampa) is on view every evening beginning at dusk and is part of the museum’s permanent collection.

The City of Tampa has enjoyed national and international recognition for its celebration of light art. Offered in 2006 and 2009 and an initiative of the City’s Art Programs Division Lights on Tampa invites artists from around the globe to create light works in downtown Tampa. According to Smith, “The museum wanted to assist in furthering the aesthetic mission of Lights on Tampa by installing a permanent light component in its architecture and its permanent collection.” Funds for this acquisition were provided by the museum through its contemporary art acquisition fund and a special gift from the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Inc. in celebration of the museum’s grand opening and the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts’ 40th anniversary festival to be held on March 6-7, 2010. Funds to support the permanent installation of the LED lights on the museum’s exterior were provided through the City of Tampa’s Art in Public Art ordinance.

Villareal resides in New York, has been included in solo and group exhibitions, and made numerous site-specific commissions throughout the world, at major cultural institutions. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C recently purchased his work Multiverse, which is on view in the corridor that connects the museum’s East and West Wings. Other installations include: P.S.1 MoMA, Queens, NY; Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY; Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS. Born in Albuquerque, NM, in 1967, Villareal began experimenting with light, sound, and video while studying set design and sculpture at Yale University, where he received his BA. He earned his MPS in the design of new media, computational media, and embedded computing from New York University’s pioneering Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts.