Multiverse, the largest and most complex light sculpture created by American artist Leo Villareal, may be experienced by visitors as they pass through the Concourse walkway between the East and West Buildings of the National Gallery of Art. The work features approximately 41,000 computer-programmed LED (light-emitting diode) nodes that run through channels along the 200-foot-long space. Development of this LED project began in 2005, and installation took place between September and December 2008.
Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Support: Multiverse was generously funded by Victoria and Roger Sant and by Sharon P. and Jay Rockefeller. Victoria Sant, president of the National Gallery of Art, and Sharon P. Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA, are Gallery trustees and members of the Collectors Committee, a group of leading collectors from across the country who support the Gallery's acquisition of modern and contemporary art.
Installation: Villareal's work features movement and light, qualities that make this installation particularly well suited for the Gallery's underground walkway, an area through which thousands of people pass daily. Once the appropriate hardware was installed in the existing architecture, the artist programmed sequences through his custom-designed software to create abstract configurations of light. His programming both instructs the lights and allows for an element of chance. While it is possible that a pattern will repeat during a viewer's experience, it is highly unlikely. Still, the eye will seek patterns in the motion, a perceptual effect of the hypnotic trailing lights.
Overview: Throughout the last four decades a growing number of artists have explored the use of light to frame and create spaces in the built environment. These include Dan Flavin's space-defining fluorescent light sculptures, James Turrell's color-saturated voids, Jenny Holzer's LED-generated texts, and Felix Gonzales-Torres' strings of lightbulbs. While Villareal's art acknowledges these forebears, his concepts relate most closely to the instructional wall drawings of Sol LeWitt and the systems-based paintings of Peter Halley.
The installation is located in the National Gallery's East Building Concourse.