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Taylor Zakarin

As some of you may have noticed, NorthPark has added two new major works to the collection in the last few months. These two works, Diamond Sea and Buckyball, 2015 are both by American artist, Leo Villareal. Diamond Sea, which is on view on Level One in EastCourt near Dillard’s, is an incredibly powerful and dynamic work. As the title suggests, this particular installation was inspired by the way light reveals itself in flashes when reflecting off of the surface of a body of water. Custom software continuously activates and disables the 2,400 white LED nodes embedded in the 10-foot by 15-foot mirror-finished stainless steel panels of the work. As the nodes turn on and off, the implied movement of the sun catching ripples of water becomes enthralling, and one’s surroundings are reflected on the surface, adding to the effect of looking at water.

The work is powerful from any angle or distance, but my favorite view of Diamond Sea is from down the hall, closer to Macy’s or Companions, our amorphous Tony Cragg sculpture. The further you step away from Leo’s work, the more perspective you gain – allowing you to observe the awe-inspiring swirling patterns that organically form out of the LED nodes.

Villareal sees his process as being very painterly - as you experience Diamond Sea, notice how the custom coded sequences build on one another, much like a painter builds up a canvas one brush stroke at a time.

Leo Villareal is considered a pioneer in the art world for his use of LEDs and computer-programmed imagery. Villareal studied stage design and art at Yale University, and later pursued a graduate degree at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. From 1994 to 1997, the artist worked at Paul Allen’s Interval Research Corporation in Palo Alto, California, studying and working on virtual reality projects.

Villareal creates software programs that sequence light patterns in infinite combinations, evolving randomly and changing constantly. Through basic elements such as pixels and binary codes, the artist builds large-scale sculptural installations that defy predictability, never repeat, and ultimately grow into complex forms that question common notions of space, time and sensorial pleasure.

The artist’s public installations include site-specific works in New York City’s Bleecker Street subway station, The Johnson Museum in Ithaca, New York, The Tampa Museum of Art in Tampa, Florida, Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, The National Gallery in Washington D.C., and most notably The Bay Lights, the 2-mile long light sculpture on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, California.

I hope you enjoy Diamond Sea as much as I do – I strongly urge you to linger in EastCourt and sit on one of the benches to watch Diamond Sea in all its permutations!