Leo Villareal
Animating Light

Leo Villareal is the most prominent light sculptor of his generation. In 1997, he abandoned his work with interactive television and began creating sculptures in which he combined strobe lights, neon, and most recently, LED bulbs activated by the artist's own custom-made software.

The magic of Villareal's work lies in its sequencing. Thousands of tiny white LEDs may resemble a starry night as seen in a planetarium, while tubes of colored LEDs masked by a diffuser are like a Monet painting of water lilies set in motion. His hypnotic and exhilarating light sculptures will be appreciated by both the young and old, experienced and inexperienced art viewers, students of both the arts and sciences, and engineers who will be tempted to analyze the artist’s algorithms.

In 1994, Villareal first attended the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. This experience influenced him greatly, and gradually led him to direct his attention towards creating immersive experiences that could be enjoyed on a larger scale.

This is the first museum survey of the groundbreaking work of Villareal, whose stunning manipulations of light and color are internationally renowned.

Leo Villareal: Animating Light was organized by the San Jose Museum of Art. Sponsored by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation, and Bank of America.

Sponsorship of the Nevada Museum of Art presentation is provided by Bally Technologies, Robert and Eleanor Preger, and the Stremmel Gallery.

Additional funding provided by City of Reno Arts and Culture Commission and the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

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Related Programs and Events

  • Opening Lecture: Leo Villareal on Animating Light

    Saturday March 5, 2011 / 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm

    Join the Museum in welcoming internationally-renowned artist Leo Villareal to the premiere of Leo Villareal: Animating Light. The artist, whose work is represented in some of the world’s most prominent museum and gallery collections, invites participants to learn about the nature of light and experience through his dynamic, immersive light sculptures and installations.

    THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT, but there will be a free first-come, first-served simulcast in the Founders Room. Tickets for the simulcast will be available at the admissions desk on March 5 only. Seating is limited.

  • Leo Villareal: Animating Light

    Saturday March 5, 2011 / 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

    It is sure to be a party at the premiere of Leo Villareal: Animating Light. Meet the artist and experience his vibrant light-based artworks, accompanied by the beats of DJ James Healy (Escape Art) live in the atrium. Come and be dazzled by Reno’s-own Controlled Burn and BoHoHoops. Celebrate the artist’s place of inspiration by wearing your favorite burner costume outfitted with LEDs. Admission is free for members with valid member card. Kids Open Art Studio is available from 6 – 8 pm / $4. Non-members may attend for the general Museum admission price.

  • Villareal After Party at the Knitting Factory

    Saturday March 5, 2011 / 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm

    Continue the party with encore performances by James Healy, Controlled Burn and BoHoHoops at the Knitting Factory along with DJ Dan, Erik Lobe, DJ Freez and Serg Rockwell. Present your admission sticker from the Members’ Premiere and get in for free. Doors open at 8 pm for the event at the Knitting Factory located at 211 N. Virginia St. in downtown Reno. Visit the Knitting Factory for more information at: www.re.knittingfactory.com

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Sunday March 6, 2011 / 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Educators’ Evening - Leo Villareal: Animating Light

    Thursday March 10, 2011 / 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

    Early childhood, elementary, secondary and post-secondary educators are invited to a special evening featuring Animating Light: Leo Villareal. Join Curator of Education Colin M. Robertson for an introduction to this exhibition of work by one of the most prominent light sculptors of his generation. View the exhibition and learn more about curriculum connections as they relate to Villareal’s integration of science, technology and art.

    Attendance to this premiere is FREE for educators, due to the generosity of The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, Inc.
    Light refreshments will be served.

    Space is limited. To register for this special evening, please e-mail colin.robertson@nevadaart.org with your first and last name and the name of your school by March 8.

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Thursday March 10, 2011 / 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Second Saturdays are FREE

    Saturday March 12, 2011 / 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

    Second Saturdays are FREE at the Nevada Museum of Art, throughout 2011! Come meet the staff, interact with the exhibitions and learn about the educational programs and unique activities we offer to our community. Don't miss out on this wonderful opportunity to share the Museum with family and friends!

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Saturday March 12, 2011 / 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Sunday March 13, 2011 / 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Thursday March 17, 2011 / 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Circuit Bending Workshop

    Saturday March 19, 2011 / 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

    The Museum's Teen Art Council, along with the Holland Project, present a one-day workshop where music creativity is explored through hands-on re-engineering of electronic toys and musical instruments. This workshop is designed for teens.

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Saturday March 19, 2011 / 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Sunday March 20, 2011 / 1:00 pm – 1:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • DJ Set by Terrain, a.k.a David Bobzien

    Thursday March 24, 2011 / 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

    Leo Villareal’s light sculptures and installations come to life through sounds and music mixed in a DJ set by Terrain, a.k.a David Bobzien, Nevada Assemblyman, District 24.

    This is the first in a series of three programs designed to interpret Villareal’s work through performances in spring 2011. Café Musee will serve light dinners, drinks, coffees and desserts during the performances until 7pm.

    Download the menu (PDF)

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Thursday March 24, 2011 / 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Crimson Rose on Leo Villareal and Burning Man

    Friday March 25, 2011 / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

    Artist Leo Villareal’s light installations count Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert among their inspirations. Join Burning Man Art Director Crimson Rose for an exciting exploration of the relationship between Leo Villareal’s work and Burning Man. The Art Bite series is funded in part by Nevada Humanities.

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Saturday March 26, 2011 / 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Sunday March 27, 2011 / 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Guided Tours at the Museum

    Thursday March 31, 2011 / 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

    The Museum offers a wide variety of tours designed to fit guests' unique interests and needs. Tour the featured exhibition with one of the Museum's trained docents during a regularly scheduled Guided Tour offered Thursdays at 6 pm (except First Thursdays); Saturdays at 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm.
    Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed. Guided Tours are free for members and paid general admission.

  • Meet the Curator: JoAnne Northrup on Leo Villareal: Animating Light

    Friday April 8, 2011 / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

    Experience Animating Light through a curator’s eyes. Join the Museum in welcoming San Jose Museum of Art Senior Curator JoAnne Northrup for a gallery talk about Leo Villareal: Animating Light, which Nothrup organized. Book signing to follow.

  • Second Saturday is FREE

    Saturday April 9, 2011 / 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

    Second Saturdays are FREE at the Nevada Museum of Art, throughout 2011! Come meet the staff, interact with the exhibitions and learn about the educational programs and unique activities we offer to our community. Don't miss out on this wonderful opportunity to share the Museum with family and friends!

  • Performing Leo Villareal: Composer Jean-Paul Perrotte’s Electronic Score in Dialogue with Villareal

    Thursday April 28, 2011 / 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

    Perrotte’s improvisational electronic score responds to the patterns of light manifested by the computer codes of Villareal’s light sculptures. This is the second in a series of three programs designed to interpret Villareal’s work through performances in spring 2011. Café Musée will serve light dinners, drinks, coffees, and desserts during the performances until 7:30 pm.

    Download the night's Cafe Musee menu (PDF)

  • Performing Leo Villareal: Cari Cunningham Choreographs a Modern Dance in the Gallery

    Thursday May 19, 2011 / 6:00 pm – 6:40 pm

    Cunningham’s dance choreography activates the physical space of the gallery by engaging Villareal’s light sculptures and installations through movement and music. This is the third in a series of three programs designed to interpret Villareal’s work through performances in spring 2011. Café Musée will serve light dinners, drinks, coffees, and desserts during the performances until 7 pm.

    Download the menu (PDF)

Leo Villareal, Amanecer, 2007. LEDs, custom software, diffusion material, wood, electrical wiring, and hardware, 84 x 288 x 15 inches. Collection of Javier López, Madrid. Image courtesy of the artist and the San Jose Museum of Art.

Leo Villareal, Big Bang, 2008. LEDs, aluminum, custom software, and electrical hardware, 59 x 59 x 8 inches. Courtesy of the Conner Contemporary Art, Washington, DC. Image courtesy of the artist and the San Jose Museum of Art.

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 and the San Jose Museum of Art.

Leo Villareal, Bulbox, 2006. White LEDs, custom software, and mixed media, 48 x 48 x 3 inches. Series of 3. Private Collection, New York. Image courtesy of the artist and the San Jose Museum of Art.

Leo Villareal, Metatron, 2002 (A.P., ed. 2). Plexiglas, incandescent light bulbs, custom software, and electrical hardware, 60 x 60 x 6 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and the San Jose Museum of Art.

Click any image to enlarge