James Mai

Professor of Art
Illinois State University
Normal, Illinois 61761, USA

Much of my studio work is centered upon generating complete sets of forms within some specific parameters, and then reducing each 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.

Stack (partitions of 6)
20 x 20 cm
archival digital print

The 22 light-gray circles in “Stack” are the complete set of partitions of 6 points in a triangular array. While there are 11 partitions of the number 6, in a triangle some of those partitions yield more than 1 distinct form (for example, there are 2 arrangements of 2+1+1+1+1, left-side middle circle). Each of the 6 large, dark-gray circles contains partitions with the same number of components: 1 form has 6 components: 1+1+1+1+1+1 (top); 2 forms have 5 components: 2+1+1+1+1 (middle left); 6 forms have 4 components: 2+2+1+1 and 3+1+1+1 (middle right); 8 forms have 3 components: 2+2+2, 4+1+1, 3+2+1 (bottom left); 4 forms have 2 components: 3+3, 4+2, 5+1 (bottom right); and 1 form has 1 component: 6 (bottom center).