With a background in sculpture Leo Villareal explores the relationship between software light and space to create artificial life like that of Volume (Renwick) at the Renwick Gallery.
LEO VILLAREAL: I think the first experience of seeing my work is certainly there’s a spectacular element to it and kind of dazzling element. My background is in sculpture, and I got into technology in the early nineties and spent many years trying to figure out exactly how I was going to use all these tools. It was always from an artist perspective, artist first and I’ll let the technology kind of take over, but eventually I had this moment where I connected software and light and space.
My first light sculpture was created at Burning Man in a way that was almost a communal gathering spot, a digital campfires, I have spoken to my work in the past that brings people together, so I think that ideas is firmly rooted in my work, and every piece I make I think I am taking some of those ideas from the desert out into the world.
What engages people is this desire or hardcoded need to pattern recognize where the brain wants to make meaning out of what it’s seeing, but my work is firmly rooted in abstraction so you never quite get to that moment of resolution. I have a team of programmers and engineers that I work with in order to create customized tools that I use to sequence my work, but at the end of the day it's for me about not knowing and sort of getting lost in the process. I love this idea of artificial life where you set up certain conditions and then let something happen.
Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW)
Nine leading contemporary artists—Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin, and Leo Villareal—each took over different galleries in the building, creating site-specific installations inspired by the Renwick.