Michael Callas - The Universe Is In The Individual
Michael Callas - The Universe Is In The Individual
Michael Callas - The Universe Is In The Individual
Michael Callas - The Universe Is In The Individual
Michael Callas - The Universe Is In The Individual
Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

The Fortitudinous Man, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

90 x 66.5 inches

(Inv# MC41)

 

A ranger in the Vietnam War details the harrowing daily practices of his unit patrolling through the dangerous high grasses of Laos in enemy territory. With a unique view of the volatile environment, the ranger describes the terror of uncertainty his comrades endure, as they seemingly lie in wait to be attacked. In an attempt to produce some semblance of clarity, the ranger retains a disciplined vision as to how to maintain courage in the face of overwhelming threat. He ends on an ambitious note, telling the reader; “I’m going out for a run now to toughen my feet up.”

 

Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

The Loving Husband, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

86.25 x 93 inches

(Inv# MC40)

 

A disillusioned young Captain stationed in Laos during the Vietnam War lusts and longs for his wife from across the sea. Held in standstill by military bureaucracy, he expresses uncertainty as to when he can return home to a warm bed with his lover. But as he romantically expresses; should he not be home in two months, he’d swim across the Pacific to see her. Tragically, the Captain is killed in an attack by the NVA 5 days after writing the letter. 

 

Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

A Parent’s Sacrifice, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

78 x 242 inches

(Inv# MC39)

 

Scrawled on the backside of two family photos, this letter was the last goodbye for a World War Two POW held on a Japanese prison ship. The courageous words detail the lieutenant’s piercing love for his parents as he faces the volatile circumstances of being a captive in enemy territory. He died shortly after the contents of the letter were written.

 

Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

The Determined Man, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

78 x 92 inches

(Inv# MC38)

 

In the courageous language of a letter addressed to his wife, a US Army Private delivers a patriotic message of strength from the battlefield. The letter would later air on Good Morning America after his death showcasing the fearless voice of a man steeped in the dangers of modern warfare.

 

Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

The Lovers, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

78 x 184 inches

(Inv# MC37)

 

Sourced from a 2007 letter to a girlfriend, the text in The Lovers captures the spirit of a Guardsman stationed in Afghanistan. At once hopeful and tragic, the words tell the tale of love gained and love lost as a Guardsman envisions a future his love would see without him.

 

Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

Baptism by Fire, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

71 x 115 inches

(Inv# MC35)

 

Perhaps there’s no sufficient way to prepare for war. In Baptism By Fire we witness an intelligent soldier express the uncertainties associated with his missions, proclaiming “any soldier who walks more than 50 feet through the elephant grass should automatically get a Purple Heart.” The level of danger in which the soldier finds himself seems to accelerate his understanding of the nature of war in a way that brings him nearer to becoming a warrior. But it is by way of passing through the fire that he assumes the responsibility of his highly complex position.

 

Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

The Brothers, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

95 x 78 inches

(Inv# MC34)

 

In a 2002 letter from Afghanistan home, a 23-year-old Sargent delivers a final sentiment to his family before advancing into what would be one of the deadliest firefights against the Taliban. The young soldier playfully asserts how he wants to be remembered; a strong, proud, and loving “punk,” as he enters into the contentious battle. Here the brother “Chris” is substituted for the mother of the soldier.

 

Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

Forbidden Love, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

77.5 x 88.75 inches

(Inv# MC32)

 

Many years after the Second World War came to the discovery of a forbidden love story born out in a time and place that prohibited its blossoming. In a series of letters recently discovered, we hear the voice of a young reluctant soldier expressing his desires for “G,” the subject of his clamoring for love. In an age where homosexuality was not only illegal but punishable with death, the soldier emotes through coded words, guiding his passion through the twist of his pen, as he does everything to avoid the toils of war. 

 

Michael Callas | THE UNIVERSE IS IN THE INDIVIDUAL

Leaving the Nest, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

71 x 120 inches

(Inv# MC31)

 

Plunged in the center of a bloody and embattled region of Vietnam, this soldier details the recent heavy exchanges between his company and enemy troops. In a detailed description of the battle, the soldier professes his love for his mother as he keeps her letters tucked into his helmet in battle. With heartfelt resolve the soldier confidently outlines the horrific nature of war, expressing love but not longing for his family as he signs off the letter and resumes his duty as a soldier of war. 

 

 

Michael Callas

A Cry For Help, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

78 x 78 inches

(Inv# MC42)

 

After a surprise encounter with enemy forces in World War One, a US army private details the tragic event that took the lives of over 100 of his fellow officers. The painfully introspective letter outlines the private’s justifications for his suicide, as he recognizes his own capacity for violence, a sentiment he finds too horrific to bear.

 

Michael Callas

A Mothers Love, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

73 x 109 x 2.5 inches 185.4 x 276.9 x 6.4 cm

(Inv# MC33)

 

Sourced from a US soldier in a 2010 letter from Afghanistan, “A Mother’s Love” captures the final words of a loving parent to a young child from beyond the grave.  The letter was found on a laptop by the veteran’s spouse after the soldier was killed by an IED explosion in combat.

 

Michael Callas

The Intrepid Son, 2017

Aerosol on canvas

93 x 77 inches 236.2 x 195.6 cm

(Inv# MC36)

 

In a handwritten letter from Afghanistan a young soldier acknowledges the love and encouragement given to him by his mother to pursue his own dreams. The soldier painfully shares his visceral anticipation on the eve of a battle against the Taliban. With resounding courage the Sargent demonstrates a heroic affection for his mother.

 

Exhibition Statement

The history of appropriation in art was most popularized by the great artists of the 20th century, epitomized in Picasso’s famous quote that; “Good artists copy and great artists steal.” It isn’t in the taking however but adapting appropriated images that they become renewed source material for working artists. Such a perspective suggests art is not just something to be observed but in fact something to be utilized. 
 

In “The Universe is in the Individual,” artist Michael Callas utilizes imagery first conceived in the 1960s DC Comic series, Star Spangled War Stories later appropriated by the famed pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. With Lichtenstein we see these images transformed from their comic book beginnings into lithographs and paintings showcasing the trademark Ben-Day dot technique. In “The Universe is in the Individual,” we see these images take on new life as fully realized large-scale paintings of seamless cinematic quality. The continued interpretations of the comic aesthetic speak to the iconic nature of the imagery and its ability to adopt new meaning over time.
 

For artist Michael Callas, our cultural familiarity with the comic aesthetic presents an attractive opportunity to develop new ideas. Taking on a curatorial approach, Callas combines the words spoken by real-life soldiers with their animated archetypes, creating a visceral connection between an individual’s experience of war and the mythos it can later become. The images, intricately produced through a rigorous process of drafting, mapping, and hand-cutting precise templates are then transposed onto a canvas with aerosol paints, creating a surface which is uniform and rich in color. 
 

“The Universe is in the Individual,” reflects artist Michael Callas’ deepest sentiments about art, that it is at once individual and universal. Through the voice of the soldier at war Callas transforms the individual into an archetypal mouthpiece. The texts, simultaneously specific and broad, unveil any human beings’ earnest impulse when faced with the realities of life and death. The resounding conclusion of which impels the viewer to access their own sentiments on what it means to be and share in the experience of living with others when it matters most.