Art and Science | Leo Villareal

Leo Villareal

Light Matrix (MIT), 2016

240 stainless steel rods, 17, 280 LED lights

Light installation

Dimensions variable

Purchased with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds


Since 1968, MIT’s Percent-for-Art Program has allocated funds to commission site-specific art along with each new major construction or renovation project on campus. This tour highlights select Percent-for-Art pieces whose designs reflect their unique location within a hub of science and innovation.


This tour was created by Isabelle Yen, Class of 2021 in Computer Science and Economics. Yen was a List Center Student Guide for three years of her undergraduate career.


As you walk into Building E52, allow yourself to be dazzled by a performance of light. Leo Villareal’s Light Matrix has modern technology at the core of its design. A grid of stainless-steel rods containing a total of 17,280 LEDs hangs from the ceiling. Each LED has 255 levels of brightness, blinking on and off in shimmering, hypnotic sequences. The artist programmed the lights using custom-designed software. After the piece was installed, Villareal sat in front of the building and tuned the tempo and brightness of the lights to fit the environment—a process he described as akin to tuning a musical instrument. If this work could make sound, what would you hear?


Building Number: E52

Accession Number: PFA.2016.002