James Little: At Auction and in ARTnews

James Little, The Chinese Massacre, 1977. Estimate: $10,000 to $15,000.


In Swann’s February 17th African-American Fine Art auction, James Little’s oil on canvas, The Chinese Massacre, 1977, is his first work on canvas to come to auction. It is an early experimental painting in which Little combined oil painting with a dispersing agent to create a unique cratered, organic texture. The January issue of ARTnews includes a peek inside his Brooklyn studio, exploring his work in geometric abstractions. 

While Little’s works have grown increasingly linear, this “defiant abstractionist” has always had a skill for manipulating paint—from these chemical reactions in his early works to his current use of encaustic, mixing together oil paint and beeswax into vibrant hues. “If I hadn’t been a painter, I would have been a scientist. There’s alchemy in it too.” Little balances gradations of color, set against flat lines, to create his harmonious compositions that deftly meld geometry, science and art. 

Celia McGee writes: “Color, Little says, is his imagery, just as a cup or bowl would be for a still-life painter or trees and mountains for a landscape artist. ‘It’s subject matter for me—the statement is in the interactions of certain colors, their placement, the temperature of color.’”