New work is inspired by Phillips’s Kandinsky symposium

Leo Villareal Scramble (2011)

Leo Villareal, Scramble (2011). Light-emitting diodes, microcontroller, custom software, circuitry, wood, plexiglass, 60 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Conner Contemporary Art, Washington, D.C.

In June of this year I moderated a captivating conversation between artists Frank Stella and Leo Villareal at the Phillips Collection during a symposium held in conjunction with our exhibition Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence. I was very pleased to learn during our Phillips trip to the Miami Beach art fairs last week that Leo Villareal was so inspired by his encounter with Stella at the Phillips that he created a new light work in homage to the artist, which was unveiled in Conner Contemporary Art’s booth at the PULSE art fair. The work, entitled Scramble, consists of a square light box whose rapidly changing light-emitting diodes recreate the color-shift effect of Stella’s 1967 sets for Merce Cunningham’s dance piece of the same title. For Cunningham’s Scramble, Stella stretched vividly-colored cloth over rectangular aluminum frames and mounted them onto casters that were moved quickly around the stage resulting in an ever-shifting collage of purple, blue, red , green, yellow, and orange. Stella later created his celebrated Scramble series of paintings and prints made up of concentric squares of varying colors.

Kandinsky Symposium

Frank Stella, Klaus Ottmann, and Leo Villareal at The Phillips Collection, June 11, 2011

In Memoriam: Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Steve Jobs who passed away two days ago at the age of 56 was perhaps the greatest creative personality the world will ever know. He was a visionary CEO who thought like an artist. He forever changed the world we live in. There have of course been others before him: Freud, Einstein, Oppenheimer, Henry Ford come to mind foremost, but the knowledge or products they have given us have at best been ambiguously beneficial to mankind. Jobs managed to give us unambiguous happiness. We never knew that we wanted the products he conceived but once he gave them to us they not only became indispensable to our lives, but they made us happy.

This may be the single most important contribution Jobs has made to mankind. Spinoza, the seventeenth-century Jesuit philosopher once wrote that “all happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love.”

As neuroscience has recently confirmed, we love our iPhones, literally.

Steve Jobs will be remembered for many reasons, most of which begin with a lowercase “i,” but he will forever be loved for giving us happiness.


Apple Store, Columbus Avenue, New York City, October 7, 2011. Photo: Klaus Ottmann


Apple Store, Regent Street, London, October 9, 2011. Photo: Klaus Ottmann