Born in Memphis, Tennessee, JAMES LITTLE (b. 1952) received a BFA from the Memphis Academy of Art (1974) and then an MFA from Syracuse University (1976). Little’s commitment to understanding of the artwork of his predecessors – among them, Clement Greenberg, Hilton Kramer and Sol Lewitt – has inspired his own disciplined formalism – in his own words: “a formalism that has more to do with the rehabilitation of the medium and identifying what makes great painting great… Take painting and try to do something heroic and successful and ambitious.”
Once labeled a “defiant abstractionist,” Little has mastered the application of oil paint and beeswax to create lush pictorial effects for his paintings, void of any sense of horizon or landscape. Painting in encaustic, Little applies up to twenty layers of paint over the course of three months. The artist’s affinity for the “alchemy” of his technique mirrors his formalist interests in “flatness, the flat plane, and materials that keep illusions at bay.” Little confronts color with two concerns: “How to make it flat and how to make it interesting. Color has to have some humanity in it.”
Since the 1970s, the work of James Little has been extensively exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe. Among his awards and honors, Little has received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award in Painting in 2009 and the Pollock-Krasner Award in 2000. In 2016, Little was commissioned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to create public artwork for the Long Island Rail Road’s new Brooklyn-bound platform at Jamaica Station. Little’s winning proposal will consist of an installation of 33 colored glass windows, expected to be unveiled in February of 2020.
Little’s paintings are included in many public and private collections, including the Newark Museum; Menil Collection; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse; New Jersey State Museum, Trenton; Tennessee State Museum, Nashville; Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Art in Embassies Program, N’Djamena Collection, Chad, Central Africa; Maatschappij Arti Et Amicitiae, Amsterdam, Holland; Library of Congress, Washington, DC; and Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis.