The work of Leo Villareal often operates on grand scales, using bright LED lights to accent and underline the inherent characteristics of human structures around the world. Frequently using coded algorithms to create complex, shifting patters of light on buildings, walls, and other constructions, his infinite variations of light offer new ways of seeing and viewing already present architectures.
Following up on a number of massively successful public projects (including his popular “Buckyball” installation at Madison Square Park in New York), Villarreal has unveiled his largest installation to date: a string of LED lights running the length of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. TitledThe Bay Lights, his work highlights the iconic dimensions of the bridge, and projecting its stature into the night sky of the San Francisco Bay.
Commissioned to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the bridge’s construction, the Bridge’s lights began installation in September of last year, and will continue to light up the bridge until 2015. Utilizing 25,000 individual LED lights, installed across the 1.8-mile expanse of the bridge’s western portion, Villareal’s installation easily surpasses the scale of the remarkable centennial celebration of the Eiffel Tower in 1989, and claims to only cost $15 a night to run, based on the lower energy demands of the LED’s used.
The Bay Lights play on the bridge as a point of synergy, a place of transition between bodies of land, water and air, repositioning its stature not only as a physical construction, but as a harmonically situated aspect of its environment. The steel girders and supports of the bridge are united into a singular surface, projecting a cohesive flow of light across the San Francisco bay. Accordingly, the space becomes a metaphor for itself, each movement of the lights entering into conversation with the directional vectors of the bridge and its traffic, and highlighting both the functionality and aesthetic essence of its construction.
Fusing many of Villareal’s creative practices and themes into a unified, ambitious whole, The Bay Lights are an unparalleled work in a new chapter of environmental and installation art, underlining the complex interplay between man and environment while actively defining both the physical structure and aesthetic elements of the bridge itself. Called “a milestone in public art” by legendary environmental artist Christo, the work signals a remarkable new level of work from Leo Villareal, and emphasizes the complexity of his artistic practice.