Leo Villareal's Microcosm (2007) is a permanent site-specific light sculpture at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kan.
Kansas City, Mo. – In 2006, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned a major site-specific installation from artist Leo Villareal for the cantilever of the museum's entrance. Executive director Bruce Hartman calls Villareal's Microcosm "one of the museum's most iconic works."
KCUR's Laura Spencer talked to Villareal during a visit to the museum's new exhibition Leo Villareal. It's a 10-year survey organized by the San Jose Museum on display at the Nerman, June 24, 2011 - September 18, 2011.
LEO VILLAREAL: "This conversation began with Bruce Hartman (executive director of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art) who saw my work in New York. He came to my studio. The architect of the building (the Nerman) Kyu Sung Woo said, 'We should find an artist who can create a light work for underneath the soffit.' So that's pretty unique.
We (Villareal and his team, along with Zahner) did a lot of simulations, budgets, and mock-ups. And finally arrived at this solution, which is a grid of white LED lights.
What's great is that the work can function even during the day. It's legible and it reads. And at night, it really activates the building and brings a lot of energy and life and kind of expresses what the institution means. And becomes, in a way, a sort of a sign...It paints the building. Even if you can't see the full piece, you see some of the light cast on the building. And it creates some attraction.
As you approach it, there's another experience of seeing it from a distance. And finally really being below the piece. All of those ways of really experiencing it and functioning at different scales are something that I really like about the installation."
Download recent arts stories or subscribe to the KCUR Arts Podcast