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Leo Villareal presents Cosmic Reef

NFT minting event on January 24th, 2022

On the generative art platform Art Blocks:

“A particular order can be found in deepest space, in our oceans and forests, and in all living things, including ourselves – a unified code producing endless variation.  Gravity and cosmic winds shape star-forming nebulas into coral-like forms.  Flowers self-organize in radial symmetry with signals hidden from the human eye.  Stars are birthed, explode, collapse, and are reborn.   Invertebrates move on the tides of oceans, signaling with ever-changing bioluminescence.  Light bends time as events unfold in our own lives.”

 - Leo Villareal.

 Leo Villareal is pleased to announce Cosmic Reef, a series of 1,024 unique, digital works presented on Art Blocks, the preeminent platform for generative digital art.  This collaboration is Villareal’s inaugural NFT project and represents a natural and exciting evolution of his prior artistic practice.

Inspired by the infinite array of sequences in the natural world, the Cosmic Reef NFTs reflect the random order of beauty and symmetry found throughout the universe.

The Series

The Cosmic Reef works begin with a simple geometry that is designed to become progressively more complex through the interaction of composed dynamic layers, each reflecting a combination of human control and computational chance.   Coded using three.js, a JavaScript library of tools for the creation and display of 3D objects, the visual display is produced by over 100 carefully coded parameters, pursuant to a single software script created and calibrated by the artist.  Each unique work is generated from this master script using a randomly generated “seed.”  The unique combination of script and seed is recorded securely and permanently on the Ethereum blockchain as the NFT.


The result is a collection of visually related but individually unique works of art, each of which constitutes a singular dynamic composition of controlled yet randomized layers and degrees of geometry, color, motion, noise, scale, and, above all, light.  


Drawing inspiration from the infinite array of patterns and sequences found in nature, the Cosmic Reef series is crafted to produce captivating, celestial blooms that evoke the geometry and symmetry of these universal natural algorithms.


A Natural Evolution

Cosmic Reef is a logical and organic extension into the purely digital realm of Villareal’s long-standing artistic practice in the areas of generative art and public art.


Since Villareal presented his first fully formed computer-controlled strobe sculpture, Light Matrix (1998), over two decades ago, he has used code at the foundation of his practice.  He creates digital, generative programs that evoke the complex and rhythmic underlying rules and structures of organic systems in order to operate the hardware components that constitute his physical light sculptures.


Translating this artistic practice into the purely digital medium of generative NFT artworks was an inevitable and natural evolution for Villareal.  The NFT medium allows the programming that the artist previously created to operate his sculptures to emerge and be appreciated in its own right as a natively digital artistic creation.  


Not long after he completed Light Matrix, Villareal unveiled his first public art installation, Supercluster (2003), at New York’s MoMA PS1.  He was intrigued by the accessibility and immediacy of public works of art and went on to create many of them, including the two monumental examples for which he is best known: The Bay Lights, a site-specific light sculpture that occupies the entire western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and Illuminated River, a generative light sculpture installed on nine bridges over the River Thames in London.


It is not surprising that Villareal responds strongly to the way in which NFTs, like his public works, are democratizing art, freeing it from elite channels and elite collectors and making it readily accessible to everyone.  Cosmic Reef offers Villareal an organic way to extend his practice into an artistic medium that is not only purely and natively digital, but also widely accessible.  


Villareal is enlivened by the prospect that Cosmic Reef will lead the way to other digital mediums and realms, such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

How do I acquire a Cosmic Reef Artwork?


A cryptocurrency digital wallet and a supply of ether (ETH), the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, are required in order to purchase a work from the Cosmic Reef series on OpenSea.  
We recommend that you open an account on the Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange ( in order to obtain the necessary ETH, and that you then create a MetaMask digital wallet ( in order to hold the ETH and to connect to the OpenSea NFT marketplace ( to purchase your NFT.  (ETH can also be purchased by means of the “Buy” button in MetaMask using a debit card but the weekly  limit is in the range of $1,000 to $1,500.)

​Some step-by-step guides:

Set up your MetaMask wallet:

Use Coinbase to fund your MetaMask wallet with ETH:

Buy an NFT on OpenSea with your MetaMask wallet:

The secret recovery phrase provided by MetaMask is the only way to restore your wallet if it crashes or malfunctions.  Write down the phrase by hand on paper and do not record it any digital form whatsoever (including a photograph). Write out another paper copy by hand and keep the two paper copies in two separate secure locations.  

A WORD TO THE WISE: The only purpose of your secret recovery phrase is restore your MetaMask wallet, if necessary.  Never reveal your phrase to anyone.  Someone who acquires the phrase can duplicate your wallet and steal everything in it.  Any email, website, app, or message that asks you to type in your secret recovery phrase is a scam!


Thank you to:

Caitlin Pickall, Raphael Palefsky-Smith, Torin Blankensmith, John Thomas, Emily Blanchard, Ed Manning, Lee Beckett, Regina Harsanyi, Lainya Magaña, Rebecca Allen, Regina Harsanyi, Erick Calderon, Jeff Davis, Sarah Ross, Hugh Heslep

Marc Glimcher, Amelia Redgrift, Ben Strauss-Malcolm, Hannah Root, Lainya Magaña, Rebecca Allen, Adriana Elgarresta, Claire Hurley, Everett Laidlaw

Art Blocks, Pace Gallery, Digital Practice

 © Leo Villareal  | Villareal Studio Ownership License

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