James Mai

Professor of Art
Illinois State University School of Art
Normal, Illinois, USA
My recent work explores “shape-partitions” of a rhombus, each partition a distinct combination of component shapes that envelop between 1 and 9 points within the rhombus. The complete set of shape-partitions for the rhombus-9 is comprised of 593 distinct forms in 30 partition groups ([8,1], [7,2], [7,1,1], [6,3], ....). From this large set, I select subsets of forms for my compositions. The structural features of the forms and their coherence as a set are themselves put forward as aesthetic content in my artworks—they are intended to be seen and known. To that end, I make decisions regarding color, scale, position, and orientation to reveal the multiple levels of order in each given form-set.
Garden (rhombus-9 [5,1,1,1,1])
20 x 20 cm
digital inkjet print
2019
This composition is the complete set of 21 shape-partitions belonging to the partition group [5,1,1,1,1]. Nine forms clustered in the center are symmetric: one form with 2 axes; six forms with 1 axis (four with a shorter axis, two with a longer axis); two forms with rotation-only symmetry. The remaining twelve forms along the edges of the group are asymmetric. Additionally, some forms are related as rearrangements of the same component shapes (for example, the two forms with U-shapes at the top). There are six such pairs and one trio (with trapezoid shapes, lower left), each positioned as near as possible to their companions.
Jaunty Rhombi (rhombus-9, skew-symmetric)
20 x 20 cm
digital inkjet print
2019
This composition includes the complete subset of 13 shape-partitions with “skew” symmetry, where the component shapes of each form are reflected across an axis extending from the middle of one rhombus edge to its opposite edge. The 13 forms belong to 11 partition groups. Nine partition groups possess a single skew-symmetric form, while two partition groups possess two skew-symmetric forms: [2,2,2,1,1,1] and [3,2,2,1,1]. The latter pairs are rearrangements of the same component shapes, and these are located at the centers of the edges of the group of rhombi.