April 10, 2013
The Bay Lights, Leo Villareal’s monumental LED sculpture
MutualArt.com, 04/10/2013

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The Bay Lights, Leo Villareal’s monumental LED sculpture
MutualArt.com, 04/10/2013

The Bay Lights, represents far more than the logistical achievement of stringing 25,000 LED nodes along nearly 5 miles’ worth of vertical suspension cables. The $8 million privately funded piece, which will illuminate the western span (1.8 miles) of the Bay Bridge nightly for the next two years, is the most ambitious project yet by the critically acclaimed Manhattan-based artist Leo Villareal—perhaps best known for his permanent installation, Multiverse, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

A key aspect of The Bay Lights is that the patterns made by the flashing nodes have been shaped by the environment around them. Not only does Villareal program in the variables producing the glowing configurations—which he says will never repeat themselves—he also wrote the underlying software that controls each individual node. (Not surprisingly, this isn’t his first encounter with the Bay Area: the artist, now 45, worked for Paul Allen’s Palo Alto think tank, Interval Research, while in his 20s; that was also when he become a regular at Burning Man.)

In creating those variables, Villareal looks to the bridge itself, and the surrounding Bay, for inspiration: “We have this monumental structure of the American sublime, this beautiful framework. We have traffic moving back and forth, we have boats underneath, the oscillations of the waves, the weather, light, and air. I take input from all of those things”—spending weeks on site, fine-tuning the algorithms on his laptop. “The piece becomes,” he adds, “a mirror of its surroundings.”

“My hope is that The Bay Lights will unleash all sorts of creativity around the Bay Area, and change the way people feel about what can be done,” Villareal says. “My approach to being an artist in society is that things you do should have a really big impact, and for me it’s not really worth it if that’s not the case.”

Leo Villareal was born in New Mexico and educated at Yale (where he was a classmate of Matthew Barney) and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, the artist now lives in New York City, where he creates artworks using light-emitting diodes and his own proprietary software. The first light sculpture he created was based on a strobe beacon he built in 1997 to mark his Burning Man camp. Since then, he has completed site-specific commissions for P.S.1/MoMA; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY; the Brooklyn Academy of Music, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Next Wave Festival; the National Gallery of Art, where his Multiverse hangs in the underground corridor linking the East and West buildings; the new Tampa Museum of Art; and the 30-foot-tall Buckyball on display this past winter Manhattan’s Madison Square Park.

The Bay Lights is a project of Illuminate the Arts (ITA), an organization based in San Francisco that’s dedicated to the creation and presentation of community-activating public art.

The Bay Lights will go live on March 5th, 2013 at 8:30pm PST and be on view through 2015. For more information visit: www.thebaylights.org

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January 17, 2017
Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts
J. Willard Marriott Library
The University of Utah, 01/17/2017

The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library will host the art exhibition Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts, Jan. 20-March 3.

Artnauts, an art collective formed 20 years ago by George Rivera, professor of art and art history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, consists of 300 global artists who serve as goodwill ambassadors, acknowledging and supporting victims of oppression worldwide. Their creativity has generated over 230 exhibitions across five continents. Five faculty members from the U’s Department of Art and Art History are members of the collective, Sandy Brunvand, Beth Krensky, V. Kim Martinez, Brian Snapp and Xi Zhang.

Globalocation derives from “Globalocational Art” — a concept used by the Artnauts to refer to their exhibitions in international venues. It is the mission of the Artnauts to take art to places of contention, and this anniversary exhibition is a sample of places where they have been and themes they have addressed.

“The Artnauts could not exist without the commitment of the artists in the collective to a common vision of the transformative power of art,” said Rivera. “The Artnauts make their contribution with art that hopefully generates a dialogue with an international community on subjects that are sometimes difficult to raise.”

Krensky, associate department chair of the Art and Art History Department, had the opportunity to travel with Rivera in Chile as part of an Artnauts project, working with mothers who were searching for their children who had mysteriously disappeared during a time of political unrest.

“When I travelled to Chile in 1998, George and I spent an afternoon with the Mothers of the Disappeared, and the meeting changed my life,” said Krensky. “It was from that moment on that I placed a picture of them on my desk to look at every day. I was so moved by what they each had lost — a son, a brother, a father — and yet what remained for them was a deep, deep well of love. They were fierce warriors and stood up to the government to demand the whereabouts and information of the people who had disappeared, but they lived within profound love.”

The 20th anniversary exhibition at the Marriott Library is a retrospective of the traveling works the Artnauts have toured around the globe. The exhibition will be located on level three of the library. The opening reception is open to the public and will be held on Friday, Jan 20, 4-6 p.m. Rivera will speak at 4 p.m.

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