Public Art

Light Matrix (MIT), 2016

Leo Villareal
View from below of a sculptural work made of stainless steel rods and LED lights suspended in a glass entryway from the ceiling.

Leo Villareal, Light Matrix (MIT), 2016. Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds. Photo: Charles Mayer. 

Location
Morris and Sophie Chang Building (Building E52)
Artist
Leo Villareal
Medium
240 stainless steel rods, 17, 280 LED lights
Dimensions
114 3/8 x 151 1/8 x 89 5/8 in. (290 1/2 x 383 9/10 x 227 3/5 cm)
Acquired
2016
Credit

Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds

Leo Villareal’s Light Matrix (MIT) comprises 240 stainless steel rods, each of which contains 72 white LEDs for a total of 17,280 lights.

The nine-foot rods hang vertically, creating a luminescent canopy suspended from the ceiling of the north vestibule of the Morris and Sophie Chang Building. Because this entryway is enclosed by glass, the work is visible both from below, where the sparkling extensions evoke icicles, and from afar, where the patterns created by the lights’ changing levels of brightness become recognizable. 

In addition to light, the installation deploys technology as a material. After the steel rods were installed, the artist programmed the lighting sequences on site with custom-designed software so that the lights flicker on and off with varying speeds and luminescence, from subtle shifts to rapid and pulsating flashes. The perceptual effect is hypnotic. On a conceptual level, this aspect of the work reflects a desire to model systems and understand how parts relate to a whole—tasks central to students in MIT Sloan School of Management and the Department of Economics, both of which are housed in this building.

Leo Villareal (b. 1967) was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He received a BA in sculpture from Yale University in 1990 and a graduate degree in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1994. His work has been exhibited across the United States at institutions including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; San Jose Museum of Art; Tampa Museum of Art; and Moody Center for the Arts, Houston, TX, among others. He has completed numerous site-specific works at international landmarks including the River Thames, London; Bay Bridge, San Francisco; Grand Central Station, New York, and many other public spaces. Villareal’s work is also in the permanent collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, Kagawa, Japan; and Arario Museum, Seoul, South Korea.