Arts & Culture

Hilton Head Island artist Gaylon Rex Greger inspired by mathematical theory

"Block Monoid," by Gaylon Rex Greger
"Block Monoid," by Gaylon Rex Greger

Abstract work may seem random -- shapes, colors and lines creating controlled chaos. But take a closer look and patterns can start to emerge. Almost like a mathematical equation.

Hilton Head Island artist Gaylon Rex Greger took that to a new level with his sculpture Block Monoid. It's the visual representation of a mathematical theory of the same name.

The math community took to it, and it was featured in a recent issue of American Mathematical Monthly.

A retired fund raiser for Trinity University in Texas, Greger moved to the island late last year. He's been an abstract artist most of his life, only recently taking up the idea of turning math into art.

Greger explains how the two disciplines intertwine.

Question. How did you get into abstract art?

Answer. A friend of mine years ago was an abstract artist. He believed in working with geometric forms and linear forms. He liked to have repetitive images. He liked opposites. If you take the triangle, square and circle, you have similar yet opposite shapes. It always intrigued me. Doing geometric work was always comforting -- the repetition, the uniformity. Life isn't always that way.

Q. What is block monoid?

A. Defining block monoid: "The set of all zero-systems of a group G is denoted B(G) is called the block monoid of G since it forms a commutative monoid under the operation of a zero system ..." Got it?

A friend of mine is a big mathematician. We were with some of his friends, and I noticed they were talking about this block monoid. I thought, "I don't know him." They were talking about it as if it was a person.

I got to thinking about it and I looked it up. I thought, "We need to know what block would look like." That started it. There's not a lot of art related to math, I have to say.

Q. Yet it is related to a degree?

A. Yes, it is. But the art isn't really there. This started as a fun thing. I made it a sculpture (of Texas red cedar) because I like the width of things. When you look at it you get a different perception, different color and shadow that way. Simply enough, I made a block. The "Z" at the bottom is the symbol of the concept. It's a block, but the spaces are also blocks. I'm looking to get block themes everywhere. The brass rods are that contrast to the blocks -- the circles to the squares. Also, I thought back to the mathematicians and what they were always talking about. They always talked about prime numbers. The slots come in prime numbers. Three slots here. Three there. One here. They add up to seven. ... A lot of things I do now incorporate series of prime numbers.

Q. The block monoid has taken over?

A. I'm now thinking about doing other projects based on this. It's block monoid come to life.


Gaylon Rex Greger

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