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.