Stephen Little is Florence and Harry Sloan Curator of Chinese Art and Department Head, Chinese and Korean Departments, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He authored many books on Chinese art, including Taoism and the Arts of China (2000), New Songs on Ancient Tunes: 19th-20th Century Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy from the Richard Fabian Collection (2007), and Chinese Paintings from Japanese Collections (2014).
Stephen Little has been painting since the 1970s. In the past decade he has focused on works depicting imaginary landscapes grounded in transience. These paintings are influenced by his many years of studying of traditional Chinese and Japanese painting. Other influences include American Color Field painting, particularly such artists as Helen Frankenthaler, and (although less obviously) European Old Master paintings and drawings. His aim is to achieve images that are visually and conceptually ambiguous, reflecting his view of reality as continually shifting and fluid.
“Although I’m now a curator, at one point in my life I decided to become an astronomer. I studied the fluid structures of matter, energy, time, and space. I learned that microcosm and macrocosm are differently scaled yet similarly structured, in many ways mirror images of each other. I was taught to pay attention to what was seen and what was unseen. I was taught that everything is unavoidably in a state of flux. I was taught the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: that it is simultaneously impossible to know both the location and speed of a subatomic particle with any degree of precision, and that on a fundamental level reality is pervaded by high degrees of uncertainty. It has been said that “the Uncertainty Principle is not readily apparent on the macroscopic scales of everyday experience.” There is what we see and what we don’t see, yet these realms too mirror each other. My paintings are explorations of the boundaries between these realms, and celebrations of ambiguity.” – Stephen Little