Buckyball
Leo Villareal, 2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016—Sunday, February 25, 2018
Exploratorium, Pier 15, The Plaza


Experience Buckyball, a towering 25-foot illuminated sculpture that features two nested, geodesic spheres. Inspired by the shape explored by futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller, Buckyball is the creation of New York–based artist Leo Villareal, celebrated in San Francisco for his monumental public sculpture The Bay Lights.

Comprised of 4,500 LED nodes arranged along a series of pentagons and hexagons, Buckyball is animated by custom software programmed by Villareal to display over 16 million distinct colors. The lights dynamically shift and fade in both sequenced patterns and random order, generating vibrant hues that will enliven the Exploratorium’s public space in both daylight and moonlight.

With a background in both sculpture and media art, Villareal's light sculpture and site-specific architectural works have been inspired by the immersive light explorations of artists such as James Turrell, Robert Irwin, and Dan Flavin. His work also builds on the computation-based, moving image experiments of artists exploring pattern and "visual music," such as John and James Whitney.

The spherical, soccer ball–like form of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes, which informs Villareal's work, was discovered in a carbon molecule by scientists in 1985. It was coined the "Buckminsterfullerene" or "Buckyball" in homage to him, and has since been avidly researched by scientists and material engineers.

Photo: Leo Villareal, Buckyball (detail), 2016