John Little (1907-1984) was born in Sanford, Alabama. He left home when only 14 to study art in Buffalo, NY, at the Fine Arts Academy. In 1933, Little enrolled at the Art Students League studying under George Grosz. Four years later, at the age of 30, he began studies with Hans Hofmann, both in New York and Provincetown. This marked his move towards abstraction and his serious engagement as a painter. After service in the Navy during WWII Little returned to New York, moving into Hofmann’s 8th Street Studio where his neighbors were Pollock and Krasner. This was a period of great experimentation influenced by Surrealist automatism, Picasso and Hofmann.
In 1946, Little was given his first solo exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco with a follow up one-man show in 1948 at Betty Parsons’s New York gallery. In the 1950s, his painting became extremely gestural with aggressively applied, thick paint. He also began a series of experimental mixed-media assemblage works created from debris found on the beaches of Montauk. Hans Namuth documented these works in his 1955 film, "Image of the Sea." In that same year Little had a two-man exhibition at Guild Hall with Pollock, and in 1957 he founded the Signa Gallery along with Alfonso Ossorio and Elizabeth Parker. Signa, which lasted for four years, mounted innovative exhibitions and became a highly important summertime venue showcasing the best of the New York art scene. In the 1960s Little’s abstract style evolved with a flattening of the paint layer and massed areas of color overlapping and interlocking in an endless variety of compositions.