Art

Math and Art Together at Last

Installation view of James Bills at Yes Gallery (photo by author)

I never would have imagined stuffy mathematics and playful chance could blend in peaceful harmony, let alone lead to the series of subdued yet provocative drawings on display in James Bills’ current exhibition Golden Parachutes and Tin Handcuffs at Yes Gallery in Greenpoint. Only an artist adept in the language of architectural drafting could manage to successfully transform boring data charts into appealing visualizations of randomly generated numbers produced by the throw of a pair of polyhedral dice.

James Bills, “Golden Parachute 8xRx9” (image via Yes Gallery)

The term “Golden Parachutes” refers to a bonus top executives in the financial industry receive upon dismissal from failing companies. It’s a crooked and illogical means of attaching award to collapsed infrastructures, yet remains standard protocol despite a deteriorating economy. This paradoxical practice serves as inspiration for Bills’ drawings, which “subvert the ideas of order with chaos,” and simmers in systematic nonsense.

Formulas found in each title of the drawing series Golden Parachutes determines how data is generated to create the chart. R functions as the random “crux of the series,” a number generated by chance using polyhedral dice. I couldn’t really follow Bills’ explanation of how each dimension was graphed on the paper, despite the process requiring no actual calculation. Just the chance to have some serious fun playing with numbers made the work intriguing to me.

James Bills, “Golden Parachute 8x8x9” (image via Yes Gallery)

All I know is the R in “Golden Parachutes, 8xRx9” corresponds to fluctuating numbers, numbers that cause the golden top layer of correlated cubes to undulate as a result. A symphony of numerical gradations create tension between order and chaos as the gradual layering from edge to center moves from yellow dispersion to dense neon friction. The atmosphere created is like that of a weather map signaling an oncoming thunderstorm.

“Golden Parachutes, 8x8x9” is the only drawing in the series without an R-factor. After walking around the room of similarly mockingly-theorized drawings, ending with a sold gold cube was almost a relief. The absence of a chaotic ebb and flow of calculated randomness provides safety and escape from the avalanche of organized chaos.

Golden Parachutes and Tin Handcuffs is on view at Yes Gallery (147 India St., Brooklyn, NY) through March 31.

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