National Gallery of Art
Visitors familiar with the National Gallery of Art know that its East and West wings are connected by a subterranean passageway (and a cafe with yummy gelato, and a cool waterfall, but I digress). The moving walkways in that passage are now surrounded by a twinkling LED installation by artist Leo Villareal. When you stand or walk in the tunnel, more than 40,000 LEDs sparkle in synchronized and random patterns all around you.
Villareal says the patterns in his art are inspired by nature:
I’m very interested in rules and underlying structures, which all tie in with the code I’m writing. There are things in nature that inspire me, like wave patterns or natural systems that at first glance appear to be very complex, but when I study them further there are simple rules that govern them. That’s what I try to get at in my code — building simple rules that refer to some of these ideas. Laws are another thing I’ve been working on lately. I’m not a physicist, but I use rules to create software and in the software I’m able to play with parameters like gravity, velocity, friction. I’m able to use these parameters and access them as an artist and see what compelling things result. (DCist)
I stopped by the National Gallery before I left DC, and I admit that the effect is lovely (and perfect for the holidays). But is it quote-unquote “great art?” The WaPo’s Blake Gopnik says no.
Visiting the installation at the National Gallery, Villareal’s dealer heard one enthusiastic visitor exclaim, “Wow, a space-warp, man.” That visitor was right: With this work, the National Gallery has entered “Star Trek” territory.
Star Trek? Eh, not quite. I’m not sure Multiverse is great art either, but it is a wonderful surprise in a previously boring, somewhat cramped space. Judge for yourself – if you can’t stop by in person, the experience is captured in this rather grainy YouTube video, and in better videos at the National Gallery website.