New Percent-for-Art commission at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to feature a site-specific light sculpture by artist Leo Villareal

  • CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts
  • /
  • October 09, 2014

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Multiverse, Leo Villareal
Leo Villareal

The MIT List Visual Arts Center has announced that artist Leo Villareal is being awarded a new Percent-for-Art commission for MIT. Villareal’s proposed work, a light sculpture in the North Vestibule of the Morris and Sophie Chang Building—Building E52—will be the latest of the artist’s large-scale, site-specific works. After renovation, the building will be occupied by MIT Sloan School of Management, MIT’s Department of Economics, and MIT Faculty Club. Villareal has also done public commissions for institutions such as Rice University, The National Gallery of Art, and The Brooklyn Academy of Music, among others. Building E52—the original Sloan School of Management Building—is currently under renovation by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners, LLP.

Upon his selection, Villareal said, “Throughout my career, I have been continually inspired by the powerful ideas and extraordinary people associated with MIT. It is an honor to be selected to create a permanent, site-specific light sculpture on campus. I am excited to work with the List Center and to be included in such an accomplished group of artists within a comprehensive public art program. I hope my artwork will enhance its location, contribute to the everyday life of the campus, and serve as an example of what is possible when light, art, and technology are combined in a unique way.”

Villareal’s proposed work will be composed of 240 hanging LED rods, arranged from the ceiling of E52’s North Vestibule in rows. Each rod will be approximately 9 feet tall, and will consist of 72 individual LEDs. These rows will be held in place by a steel “canopy,” a structural support matching the vestibule ceiling’s existing color, and will not only serve as support for the rods but also as the vehicle for electrical distribution to them. Controlled by software code developed by the artist, the LEDs will cycle through a randomly generated series of combinations and sequences. Molly Donovan, Associate Curator, Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC said, “Leo Villareal’s digitally encoded work reveals spectacular possibilities for social spaces. With each new—evermore richly layered—work, Villareal harnesses the perceptual effects of our expanding virtual universe. It is fitting that Villareal’s work will be sited in a space shared in part by MIT Sloan School of Management and Department of Economics given the artist’s interest in gift economies and intellectual community.”

Villareal was selected for the commission by Percent-for-Art committee members including: Richard Amster, Director of Facilities for Campus Planning, Engineering & Construction; Thayer Donham, Senior Planner for Campus Planning & Design; Paul Ha, Director, List Visual Arts Center; Lucinda Hill, Director, Sloan Capital Projects; Henry Humphreys, Senior Associate Dean of Residential Life and Dining; Marc Jones, Assistant Dean of Finance & Administration; Elizabeth Leber, architect, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners, LLP; Sonia Richards, Project Manager, Programming and Design, Capital Projects; and Alise Upitis, Assistant Curator, List Visual Arts Center.

E52 is currently under construction, with a projected completion date of 2016. The renovation’s objective is to create a new high-quality and sustainable academic space for the Institute’s Economics Department. This is the first major upgrade to the building since its construction in 1938.

MIT’s Percent-for-Art program, formally established in 1968, funds the commission and purchase of art after new renovations or building projects. Such commissions can be seen throughout MIT’s campus, in the Zesiger Sports Center and Green Center for Physics, among others, by artists including Mark di Suvero, Jackie Ferrara, Dan Graham, Candida Höfer, Sol LeWitt, Louise Nevelson, Jorge Pardo, Matthew Ritchie, and Sarah Sze.

About the Artist: Leo Villareal was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1967. Villareal received a BA in sculpture from Yale University in 1990, and a graduate degree from NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Interactive Telecommunications Program. His recent exhibitions include a survey show organized by the San Jose Museum of Art, which traveled to several museums in the United States. He has completed many site-specific works including Radiant Pathway at Rice University, Multiverse at The National Gallery of Art, and Diagonal Grid at Borusan Culture and Arts in Istanbul, Turkey. Villareal’s The Bay Lights shines from dawn until dusk on the San Francisco Bay Bridge West Span from March 5, 2013 through March 2015. Newly commissioned installations at Cornell University and the Durst Organization in New York City will be in visible public spaces. Villareal’s work is in the permanent collections of many museums including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art, and the National Gallery of Art.


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