• When Leo Villareal’s showcase opens at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on the evening of Saturday, the only light in the darkened main gallery will flicker and glow from the artwork on the walls.

    For Villareal, light is both subject and material. A New York-based artist known for large architectural installations and hypnotic light sculptures, Villareal is in the business of transformation.

    Pieces like the 15-foot-wide “Diamond Sea” (2007) invite the viewer to linger in front of a mirrored wall populated with thousands of tiny LED lights, running in fast-moving, untraceable patterns. From 2010, “Amanecer” (which means “dawn” in Spanish) emits diffuse, pastel colors that recall Monet’s water lilies.

    “The works take on very different qualities,” said museum director Stephen Fleischman. “Some of them are restful, sort of transformative, contemplative …

    “Other works are quite high voltage, no pun intended. They dance across the surface and are quite chaotic, so there is a whole range of expressions there.”

    The show, called simply “Leo Villareal,” debuted at the San Jose Museum of Art in Aug. 2010. It has shown in Nevada, Kansas and Georgia; Madison is its final stop.

    For the show’s debut, Villareal described his artistic process for a video on the San Jose museum’s website.

    “My pieces are very open-ended,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re going to be when I’m making them … my goal is to create the conditions for something to happen.

    “You create the parameters, but then let it happen. You’re there to capture that moment of discovery.”

    Villareal, whose background includes found art, virtual reality and theater technical design, created his first light sculpture in 1997 at Burning Man, the annual art event in the Nevada desert.

    “The epiphany for me was that you can create a very potent work of art with a small amount of information,” Villareal said in the video. “The most inspiring thing about Burning Man is you ask someone, ‘Where did you get that?’ And the answer 99 percent of the time is, ‘Oh, I made it.’”

    Villareal’s installations draw the eye with seemingly random patterns created by complex mathematical algorithms programmed into Mac mini computers.

    Staring at “Diamond Sea” over several minutes, one sees patterns of light that resemble waves on the ocean, Doppler images of Hurricane Isaac, even the ghosts in Pac-Man.

    “He doesn’t want there to be any pre-established meaning behind anything. It’s really people coming to their art on their own terms.”

    Currently, Villareal is creating a piece for the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. The installation, “Bay Lights,” will span one-and-a-half miles of the bridge and include 25,000 energy-efficient white LED lights. It is expected to be complete in January 2013.

    Meanwhile, in Madison, MMoCA staff hope that Villareal’s work will appeal to everyone from math lovers enamored with the complex technology to young adults who stand transfixed by the moving lights.

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  • led light 09.04.2012 No Comments

    We have always been drawn to material combining good and evil, especially if it includes exploring the psychological nature of the characters involved, which is why the likes of Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera and especially Jekyll & Hyde have appealed to us. They all dealt with horrible crimes, were purportedly based on real events, and told of great love stories gone awry.

    Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom told of a real Swedish opera singer Kristina Nilsson who sought out Erik, a deformed masked composer living in the cellars of the Paris Opera to mentor her. He fell in love with her, but let her go in the end into the arms of the man she loved. In Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, there is proof of a real mad barber using a razor and trapdoor to rob and kill customers who ended up in meat pies.

    The real-life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was hanged to death in October 1, 1788 after living a double life as respectable citizen by day and killer by night. This person became Robert Louis Stevenson’s model for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    When given the first, original and darker version of Jekyll & Hyde to work on, its director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who is Repertory Philippines’ associate artistic director, realized she wanted to strip down the musical to its barest elements, rethink its epic history and make it real and relatable unlike the monster in the Stevenson story.

    “I wanted him to be a real person who with the potion is simply freed of inhibition, conscience and guilt… I didn’t want an actual physical change but a body adjustment, a change in attitude and in how the character occupies space. There had to be an arrogance about Hyde. Jekyll was not a bad person; he truly believed he had found a solution to make the world a better place to live in. But he never considered what he would do with the evil once he succeeded in separating it.”

    It was obvious that the entire chorus brought onstage as actor, narrator and singer had to be more than excellent, without the help of elaborate sets and special effects. The lead role of Lucy (Kalila Aguilos) dreams of the kind Jekyll, but is attracted by the danger in Hyde. Menchu wanted rawness from Lucy, unlike the educated Emma (Cris Villonco). “I wanted polar opposites. I got that with a Cris and Kalila combination,” explained Menchu.

    Jett Pangan, known as a rock icon being the frontman of Dawn, and Michael Williams, who had done Miss Saigon and King and I in London, alternate as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. They were Menchu’s perfect choices. “Both give very different performances and I directed both very differently. They alternate simply because it would be very hard for anyone of them to do two shows in one day.”

    Junix Inocian as Jekyll’s lawyer and friend Gabriel Utterson joins the ensemble onstage in narrating the entire play.”I don’t think this has ever been done before. Even the set is based on a Victorian surgery theater… When I first saw the set, it was a bit overwhelming. But Menchu’s original idea of telling the story, plus John Batalla’s excellent lighting, really works,” related Junix who is doing the musical for the first time.

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  • Synbiosis’ ProtoCOL automated colony counting system is being used at the Robert Mondavi Research Institute, a major US food and wine research centre, to speed up studies on the growth of a variety of bacterial pathogens in food.

    Microbiologists in the Robert Mondavi Research Institute (RMI) at the University of California, Davis are using ProtoCOL to look for, and count colonies of bacteria associated with food poisoning on a wide range of media and plate types. These pathogens include E.coli 0157 and Salmonella growing in nuts and fresh produce.

    Using a ProtoCOL, researchers at the RMI are able to rapidly and accurately monitor how pathogens can grow in different types of storage conditions. It is hoped this information will lead to a greater understanding of how to prevent outbreaks of food poisoning associated with these bacterial pathogens.

    Dr Anne-Laure Moyne, Staff Research Associate at the RMI explained: We run trials looking at how storing products such as almonds, pistachios and lettuce can affect the growth of bacterial contaminants. During these trials, we can generate around 250 spiral, pour plates or gridded filters on plates every day, all of which have to be analysed. Doing this manually with a light box and pen meant our staff had to work very long days, so we knew we had to automate the process.

    Dr Moyne added: We tested two automated colony counters side by side but found that because of the different lighting methods only the ProtoCOL could recognise and count black Salmonella colonies when the BSA (bismuth sulphite agar) media they are growing on is green.

    We also saw the ProtoCOL could count red colonies on red media and distinguish between grid lines and colonies more accurately. This is why we decided the ProtoCOL system was the right one for our research and we have been very happy with the systems performance.

    Martin Smith of Synbiosis stated: With recent outbreaks of food poisoning in Europe associated with salad products, research into what triggers bacterial growth is critical.

    Were proud to hear the ProtoCOL is being used by microbiologists at such a prestigious food research institute to help improve the productivity of their important trials. The results RMI microbiologists are seeing, especially using chromogenic media, shows scientists in food microbiology laboratories looking for a versatile, accurate automated colony counter that a ProtoCOL is an intelligent choice.

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  • Rotary Club, veterans and school and community art groups have joined with Fort Bend County to honor the U.S. Armed Services, with a pavilion and mural project in a new Katy-area sports park.

    Freedom Pavilion will be a “spectacular focal point” at newly christened Freedom Park, a county baseball complex under construction off Westheimer Parkway at Barker Reservoir, said Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers

    Katy and Houston Skyline Rotary chapters, Katy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9182, the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston and art students from Seven Lakes High School are collaborating on the project design, which will include mosaic murals depicting the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

    “We’re 30 days away from getting a contractor,” said Katy Rotary President Nick Schrader, on Nov. 10. His chapter is helping finance and raise money for the $80,000 memorial.

    A tentative Nov. 11 dedication was rescheduled to next spring, possibly in March, said Schrader, who is working with Rotarians David Frishman and Ken Burton on the project.

    The idea took further shape when Schrader met Museum of Cultural Arts Houston president Reginald Adams, who is also president of the Houston Skyline Rotary Club, and Meyers to tour the baseball park site.

    Originally, Schrader pitched his idea for a colorful mural wall.

    “After walking around in the 107-degree heat for 40 minutes, Reggie said it would be gorgeous to have a wall out here, but what we really need is some shade,” said Schrader.

    The design that emerged is a pentagon-shaped pavilion, with five pillars wrapped in mosaic designs honoring each of the five armed services. Chevron-shaped benches and a canvas canopy, supported by a central pillar featuring its own mosaic flag design, would give visitors a welcome place to linger and reflect, Adams said.

    The pavilion plaza will be 60 feet in diameter, with a 24-foot tall awning. Concrete, flagstone and brick pavers will complete the star-shaped design.

    A lighting specialist is developing plans for changeable colored LED lights to illuminate awnings and flags according to the season, Schrader said.

    Seven Lakes studio art students, under the direction of teacher Kim Glasgow and with guidance from the MOCAH, worked on murals for each of the armed services. VFW officials helped ensure that the designs are accurate and appropriate, Adams said.

    Students are excited about this chance to make the community more beautiful, said Glasgow. “And it is something that will be lasting, that they can go to and someday say, ‘I was a part of making this.’ ”

    Meyers said plans for a concession stand at the park have been enlarged, in recognition of the public events and ceremonies that will be held at the pavilion. The park, which is connected to a hike-and-bike trail that runs to Cinco Ranch, also includes playgrounds, wilderness areas and parking.

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  • A new installation at the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus, portraits of Cold War Afghanistan and an eclectic sampling from Hera Gallery artists on the road in Providence are among the exhibitions worth a scenic drive this fall …

    We begin on the bay, where URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography looms above the shoreline in a collection of disparate buildings and research laboratories. The university has been seeking more cohesion in its Narragansett Bay Campus landscape, and earlier this year it took a major step in that direction when a public artwork commissioned by the school and the R.I. State Council on the Arts through the Allocation for Art for Public Facilities Act was unveiled in the lobby of the Ocean Science and Exploration Center.

    The act recognizes that art in public places creates a more humane environment, and the resulting installation, a stunning sculpture by Cliff Garten titled “Schooling,” is a testament to the power of public art to transform settings into distinctive places that foster identity and community, invite reflection and add graceful notes of beauty and aesthetic to otherwise impersonal environments.

    “Schooling,” a sculptural installation appearing in front of a white wall and cast in LED lighting that gives off a sense of bioluminescence, is an energetic and dynamic work, as well as a sublime marriage of art and place. Suspended by fine aircraft cables at various heights, the sculptor’s labor-intensive layered forms repeat, hovering in proximity, becoming a funneled mass of more than 200 individual elements suggestive of a school of fish. The work shimmers and glows in tones ranging from blue to silver, changing in appearance depending on the time of day or night, the quality of the light and the angle at which it is viewed.

    Garten, an internationally recognized artist with a reputation for creating evocative site-specific works that integrate man-made landscapes with their surrounding environment, has succeeded here in bridging the nautical focus of the institution that calls the Ocean State its home with the mission of the university in charge of navigating the education of its students.

    “Schooling,” with its allusion to the habits of both fish and students, is artfully considered and expertly rendered. The ventilated shapes are abstract enough to appear as either fish or vessels. Between the torpedo-shaped pieces of brushed aluminum that make up each individual sculpture are marbles that appear in form and color as pearls, holding it together. Curved cut-outs within each piece give it the quality of semi-transparency; the holes capture the glimmer of the LED lights, evoking the diaphanous quality of marine life. The repetitive nature of the work suggests fleeting movement in a realm of constant motion, and its position aiming at the bay conveys a feeling of eternally forward progress.

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