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Leo Villareal's latest body of work in new exhibition at Conner Contemporary Art
Leo Villareal, Coded Spectrum, 2012, light emitting diodes, mac mini, custom software, circuitry, powder-coated aluminum, plexiglas, 46 x 103.25 x 6 inches, unique.
WASHINGTON, DC.- Conner Contemporary Art presents Leo Villareal’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery. Villareal’s latest body of work enacts formal inquiries into imagery closely identified with modernity, reimagining colors and forms in the works of post-painterly abstractionists Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, and Ellsworth Kelly.

Villareal introduces temporal actions of light into traditional abstract imaging, using LEDs (light emitting diodes), custom software and sequencing. With these new media the artist explores, in single digital sculptures, extensive frameworks produced in serial paintings, such as the colorful concentric squares in Frank Stella’s Scramble series. Villareal activates familiar static forms, changing their color, definition, intensity, and duration. His imagery unfolds gradually, as if revealing the live application of pigments, a process that color painters of the 1950s and 60s concealed in their canvases.

The diffuse, pared down and unhurried imagery of Villareal’s new works place them among his most minimal creations. Target (2) recalls Noland’s gravitation toward the center in the iconic Target series. Concentric rings of glowing color gradients appear to push out beyond the surface of the piece and pull behind it, evoking the plasticity of Anish Kapoor’s optical sculptures. Villareal achieves a different sense of depth in Coded Spectrum, where thirteen planes of color vibrate subtly within a white metal grid that seems to pop out from the color ground like bars in a Peter Halley painting. Though Kelly embraced randomness as he explored color relationships in the Spectrum series, Villareal limits its role in this work. Selecting the palette himself, rather than letting the computer do it randomly, he distills artistic judgment into his own code.

As Villareal reconsiders post-painterly forms and colors, he re-conceptualizes the art historical category of abstraction and updates the modern aesthetic with digital color-field imaging.

Villareal’s work was recently acquired by The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC and his site-specific installation, Multiverse, is in the permanent collection The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Both works are currently on view.

Additionally, the artist’s is represented in the following international collections: Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Arario Museum, Seoul, Korea; Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY. Site-specific installations include: Borusan Music & Art House, Istanbul, Turkey; Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; PS1/MoMA, Long Island City, NY; Grand Central Station, New York, NY.

Villareal’s first major museum survey debuted at the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA last year and is currently on view at the Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, GA. The survey will open September 8th at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Madison, Wisconsin and be on view through December 30, 2012. A catalogue published by Hatje Cantz accompanies the exhibition. 

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