NY Times Art in Review: James Little

Holland Cotter, New York Times, June 5, 2009


Some abstract artists -- Mondrian is one -- make entire paintings from countless small precise strokes, brushwork so detailed but so undemonstrative that you sense it rather than see it. If his compositions of plain blocks and bars feel vivacious, that's why.


James Little does something similar with color. His new paintings are almost entirely of patterns of crisp vertical stripes and rays made vibrant by gradations of colors within each. Mondrian stuck to a palette of red, yellow, blue, black and white. Mr. Little seems to explore every possible variation of these. Pink soaks into lavender; electric orange slices into electric blue; cinnabar floats over gray; dark blue stains into light blue, light blue into peacock-blue-green. Each stripe becomes a self-defined spectrum, each painting a rainbow.


Such results could be just pretty; the work's titles–Satchmo's Answer to Truman, The Marriage of Western Civilization and the Jungle –seem designed to make sure we don't see them that way. And we don't. What we see, or feel, is an eye choosing, mixing and gradating color the way Mondrian applied paint: as if concentration were a form of expression, which it is. 

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