James Little in the 2022 Whitney Biennial

Kavi Gupta, Kavi Gupta Blog, January 25, 2022

Kavi Gupta is proud to announce James Little's inclusion in the 2022 Whitney Biennial.


Little has been an enduring and influential force in the field of abstraction for decades. Included in such pivotal early exhibitions as Another Generation: Contemporary Abstractionists at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979, and Afro-American Abstraction at MoMA PS1 in 1980, Little has consistently re-defined the meaning and importance of abstract painting in the Post Modern age.


Little's distinctive aesthetic language is rooted in geometric shapes and patterns, flat surfaces, and emotive color relationships. While developing his unique position within contemporary abstraction, Little has devoted decades to rigorous academic study of color theory, pictorial design, and painting techniques. His practice embodies the complementary forces of simplicity and complexity.


“I’m not cutting edge,” he says. “I’m just trying to stand up next to the great paintings of the past. It’s like building a building. The things that are going to make it stand are the same as they’ve always been. You have to have a solid foundation. I approach painting the same way.”


About social messages in his art, Little says, “I am politically conscious and pissed off about a lot of this stuff that’s going on as much as anybody. But I can’t allow situations like that to get in the way of my aesthetic intent. If the situation changed overnight, and we had a utopia, where there was no more racism, there were no more police killings, and everybody got along…what would I do then, paint a perfect world? I mean that’s not what drives me.”


Rather than directly addressing the social and political turmoils of the moment, Little chose abstraction because it was a field in which he could express his free will. What drives his continued experiments is a single, burning question that he has never stopped trying to answer for himself: What makes a great painting great?


Recently, Little's work has been thrilling audiences in such groundbreaking exhibitions as Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse, and The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie CollectionIn November of 2022, he will open an ambitious solo exhibition of new large-scale paintings at Kavi Gupta in Chicago.



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