James Mai

Professor of Art
Illinois State University
Normal, Illinois 61790
Much of my studio work is centered upon generating complete sets of forms within some specific parameters, and then reducing the set to the fewest number of distinct forms. Distinct, here, means those forms that are unlike any other form after reflection or rotation. A high priority in my work is to make the mathematical order of the set visually discernible, apart from any verbal or mathematical description. Since there are usually multiple levels of order in a form-set, I endeavor to employ color, scale, orientation, and position to denote the various similarities and differences among the forms.
Orrery (2 orbits, symmetric)
20 x 20 cm
archival digital print
2016
The 16 forms in “Orrery (2 orbits, symmetric)” are a subset of 88 total “loop-forms” whose shapes result from all possible closed paths that pass through 2 of 3 points (green, orange, violet dots) along 4 radii extending from a center (black dot). All loop-forms in this composition are symmetrical, their axes aligned on a 45-degree diagonal. Colors and positions of the loop-forms reveal the following characteristics: (A) line colors indicate the combination of points contacted by the loop (or, easier to see, the 4 points not contacted), and these are aligned in rows; (B) 2 groups of 8 forms (parallelograms, left and right) show loop-forms with 1 intersection/2 regions (right-hand group) and 3 intersections/4 regions (left-hand group).
Blocks (5-strut-forms, squares)
20 x 20 cm
archival digital print
2016
The 15 forms in “Blocks (5-strut-forms, squares)” are a subset of 54 total “5-strut-forms” whose shapes result from all possible line-connections among 6 points in a square-grid point-array. The shapes in this composition are the set of 5-strut-forms that fit within a 3x3 square format (i.e., with point-arrays 3 units in height and width). Colors and positions distinguish the following features among members of the set: (A) blue squares show strut-forms with T-junctures, yellow squares show paths without intersections, and a single red square shows the only path with an X-intersection; (B) the topmost strut-form with black dots is the single symmetrical example in this set, all other forms with white dots are asymmetrical.