James Mai

Professor of Art
Illinois State University
Normal, Illinois
My studio work develops in two primary directions: studies in color contingency and studies in systematic variations of form. In color, I am interested in simultaneous contrast effects--how color identity is contingent upon the surrounding color context. For all of its perceptual surprise, simultaneous color contrast is neither random nor unpredictable. My concerns are not only for the myriad changing appearances of colors, but also for the constant laws that effect those changes. In form, I have been exploring exhaustive permutations of polygon divisions. By exhaustive, I mean that I choose a restricted set of variables that will generate a finite group of unique but related forms. My purpose is to create families of forms that are complete (no permutations are missing) and non-redundant (no two forms are alike by symmetry transformation). In both kinds of work, my priority is to find new and unanticipated varieties of shape and color.
Cluster (Blue)
12 x 12"
archival digital print
2012
The 12 forms in this composition comprise the complete set of octagons divided into 2 internal shapes. By employing all 8 vertexes to form smaller closed shapes, there are 2 possibilities: 1 quadrangle + 1 quadrangle, or 1 triangle + 1 pentagon. There are 7 unique combinations of the quadrangle + quadrangle type (grouped towards the lower right); there are 5 unique combinations of the triangle + pentagon type (grouped towards the upper left). The forms are colored to differentiate the number of axes of reflective symmetry: green = 8 axes, red = 4 axes, yellow = 2 axes, violet = 1 axis, orange = 0 axes (asymmetrical).
Circuitous (Red)
12 x 12"
archival digital print
2012
This work is largely motivated by simultaneous color contrast. The red line crosses 6 different areas of 5 different colors (the upper right and lower left grounds are the same color), and is changed in its appearance on each ground color. As it loops through the composition, the red line appears warmer and cooler, lighter and darker, brighter and duller, each new appearance induced by a strategically chosen ground color. The composition is built upon Phi geometry, where both the curved line segments and the ground shapes are determined by either squares or Phi rectangles.
Mirroring (Yellow-Orange)
12 x 12"
archival digital print
2012
The yellow-orange line in this work appears to change its color as it crosses from ground to ground. On the orange and violet grounds, it appears duller and brighter in intensity; on the yellow-ochre and blue grounds, it appears cooler and warmer; left and right of the vertical divide, it appears lighter and darker. The composition is based upon Phi geometry, which determines the changing proportions of the distorted mirror symmetry. The linear form can be understood as reflectively symmetrical except that the left side is horizontally "squeezed". The right side of the linear form fits into a Phi rectangle, while the left side fits into a proportionally narrower rectangle (a square stacked on a Phi rectangle).