Structure is the underlying component in all of James Little’s works. Each element in his paintings, whether it’s a line, a tone or an angle, has a role to play. Through their interaction with other elements, each competing for the viewer’s attention, they create a conversation that gives each painting its spirit. While none of Little’s works have narratives, the titles of his paintings do have meanings.
“I don’t use meaningless titles, but the work reflects the titles,” Little said.
We recently sat down with him to learn more about the meanings behind the titles of his Black Paintings series, on exhibit at Rosenbaum Contemporary from September 8 through October 8.
Black Star, 2015, Oil and wax on linen, 72 x 72 inches (182.9 x 182.9 cm)
The title for Black Star came while Little was listening to music and looking through Pinterest at Black artists he admired such as Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and Eartha Kitt. He pondered the notion of what it takes to be a Black star and wanted to do something to immortalize them.
Gorilla, 2019, Oil and wax on linen, 72 x 72 inches (182.9 x 182.9 cm)
Gorilla represents strength and dominance, “something powerful, big, black, expansive and recognizable.”
Raw Power, 2020, Oil and wax on linen, 72 x 72 inches (182.9 x 182.9 cm)
The title for Raw Power came from a quote which defined raw power as “power that you haven’t used that you don’t even know that you have.”
“Even in the worst situations you still have some power, whether it’s prayer, hope, or resistance,” Little said.
Cubist Rendezvous, 2019, Oil and wax on linen, 72 x 72 inches (182.9 x 182.9 cm)
Cubist Rendezvous was inspired by the Cubists. “I like the way they went about doing what they did. I’m always trying to flatten the plane. Twentieth century Cubism laid down the roadmap. You have to figure out a way to flatten the picture plane and keep the art relevant,” Little said.
Decoy, 2019, Oil and wax on linen, 72 x 72 inches (182.9 x 182.9 cm)
The title for Decoy was inspired by a museum of carved wooden ducks that Little saw on a trip to New Orleans. “The ducks looked so real that is was unbelievable. The sculpting, painting and detail was exquisite. I deal with a lot of detail and am very methodical. I saw a lot of that in these objects,” he said.