SAN JOSE MUSEUM OF ART TO PRESENT FIRST MAJOR MUSEUM SURVEY ON ARTIST LEO VILLAREAL

The San Jose Museum of Art will present the first-ever museum survey of the work of the prominent sculptor Leo Villareal, a pioneer in the use of LEDs and computer-driven imagery. Leo Villareal, on view at SJMA from August 21, 2010, through January 9, 2011, will feature approximately 20 sculptures and expansive installations by Villareal on loan from public and private collections, as well as video documentation of his architectural, site-specific works. The exhibition traces the artist’s work over the past decade, from his earliest experimental sequencing of strobe lights to his recent hypnotic patterning of thousands of pinpoint LEDs. Organized by the San Jose Museum of Art, the exhibition will be accompanied by the first book devoted to the artist’s work, co-published by Hatje Cantz Verlag. The exhibition will later travel to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, NV, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, KS, and the Telfair Museum of Art’s Jepson Center in Savannah, GA.


Leo Villareal, Flag, 2008. LED tubes, custom software, and mixed media, 74 1/2 x 144 x 4 inches. Unique. Courtesy Gering & López Gallery. Image courtesy of the artist

“Villareal not only gives viewers the sensory thrill of his ever-changing displays of light: he also creates a participatory social space that is fascinatingly both relaxed and spectacular.” said Susan Krane, Oshman executive director of the San Jose Museum of Art. “He so clearly understands the fundamental way that our visual experience and habits of perception have been influenced by technology, now so deeply integrated into contemporary life. The San Jose Museum of Art is honored to introduce his art to Silicon Valley audiences and to continue the museum’s commitment to exploring the intersection of art and innovation.”

The exhibition and accompanying catalogue come as Villareal’s popularity and reputation in the art world reach new heights, as evidenced by a recent public commission at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the acquisition of his art by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL.

“Villareal’s work bridges the subculture of technology and the broader international contemporary art world,” said JoAnne Northrup, the Drew and Katie Gibson Chief Curator at SJMA. “Why shouldn’t 21st-century artists use 21st-century technologies as creative tools? Although he relies on computers, his work is not about technology. Computers are necessary to drive the light sequences that compose his work, but he deliberately uses code that it simple and pared down.”

The works on view in Leo Villareal range in scale from the 36 in. x 30 in. x 7 in. sculpture Red Life ( 1999 ) to the 10 x 15-foot installation Diamond Sea ( 2007 ). Several works will be presented in experiential installations. For example, Firmament ( 2001 ), consists of a 16-foot diameter, ceiling-mounted light sculpture, sequenced by a microcontroller; visitors will recline on a specially designed couch to experience the hypnotic animated patterns above.

Other works on view will include Metatron ( 2002 ), Hexad ( 2002 ); Lightscape ( 2002 ), Sunburst ( 2002 ), Chasing Rainbows ( 2004 ), Solaris ( 2005 ) and Big Bang ( 2008 ), and.

“It is beauty that we experience with Villareal’s work, at times haunting and mysterious, at other times voluptuous and grand,” writes noted critic and scholar Michael Rush in his essay.

Organized by the San Jose Museum of Art, the exhibition will later travel to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, NV, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, KS, and the Telfair Museum of Art’s Jepson Center, Savannah, GA.

Leo Villareal is sponsored by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation, and Bank of America.

ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in Albuquerque, NM, in 1967 and raised in El Paso, TX, and in northern Mexico, Leo 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 work 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 light piece was well received and became the precursor to his work in the light medium. His recent major commissions include Sky ( Tampa ) ( 2010 ) at the Tampa Museum of Art, FL, Stars ( 2009 ) at the Galería Javier López in Madrid, and Multiverse ( 2008 ) at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum in Kagawa, Japan; and other public and private collections.

A full-color catalogue to be co-published with Hatje Cantz Verlag ( Ostfildern, Germany ) will include an introduction by Steven B. Johnson, best-selling author of Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter; a foreword by Susan Krane, Oshman executive director of SJMA; and essays by Northrup, Rush, Mark Van Proyen, corresponding editor for Art in America and expert on counterculture, and architectural journalist Sara Hart.

Image: Leo Villareal, Flag, 2008. LEDs, custom software, and electrical hardware, 75 x 144 x 4 inches. Courtesy Gering & López Gallery, New York. Image courtesy of the artist and the San Jose Museum of Art.

SAN JOSE MUSEUM OF ART
The San Jose Museum of Art is a vibrant and popular community resource that brings a variety of acclaimed exhibitions, programs, and innovative educational opportunities to the diverse residents of Silicon Valley. SJMA’s permanent collection of more than 2,000 20th- and 21st-century works of art includes paintings, sculpture, installation, new media, photography, drawings, prints, and artist books. Currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, the San Jose Museum of Art is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San Jose, California. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, and free to members and children under 6. For more information, call 408-294-2787

www.SanJoseMuseumofArt.org

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