Retrofitting the Renaissance: Introducing Michael Callas

JoAnne Artman Gallery
Jan 9, 2020 6:35PM

Rooted in Pop art, street art, graphic design, and his life in Southern California, Michael Callas’ paintings are done with spray paint and precise stencil work. Intricately produced through a rigorous process of drafting, mapping, and hand-cutting templates before being transposed onto canvas with aerosol paints, Callas creates a surface that is uniform and rich in color. Applying his distinct approach of working in aerosols to the traditional oil paintings of the Renaissance, Callas is working on a new series that explores the famous character archetypes and narratives throughout art history.

Michael Callas
Bronzino, 2019
JoAnne Artman Gallery

Inspired by the 16th Century Florentine Master, Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano, better known as Bronzino, Michael Callas borrows the compositional arrangement of Bronzino’s “Venus, Cupido, and Satyr.” Known for allegorical paintings, specifically his paintings centered on the mythological characters of Venus and her son Cupid, Bronzino examines carnal and spiritual love and the effects these forces have on both immortals and mankind.

In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. He is often portrayed as the son of the love goddess Venus and the war god Mars. Bronzino’s painting depicts Venus teasingly taking away Cupid’s bow while he holds on to his arrow. In the top right corner, a voyeuristic Satyr watches their interaction, emerging from the shadows.

A mythical creature given both human and goat-like features, satyrs occupied a paradoxical, liminal space in Renaissance art. Of classical origin, satyrs had an iconographical canon of their own, which was very different from the standard representations of gods and heroes. Part human and part beast, Satyrs became representative of the “pre-human,” embodying traits of savagery and barbarism indicative of animals, but in human form.

Venus, Cupid, and the debaucherous Satyr address the timeless theme of love as each figure represents a different facet: Venus representing beauty, Cupid representing desire, and the satyr representing wanton behaviors.

Agnolo Bronzino, Venus, Cupido, and Satyr, Oil on Canvas, 1551. Photo Courtesy: Wiki Commons.

Appropriating Bronzino’s Renaissance classic with invention and boldness, Callas maintains the original composition. Remaining true to his practice, Callas meticulously maps out color planes of saturated hues and gray tones, crafting dimensionality and dramatic light sources on his subjects. Employing his stencil methodology to precisely sculpt the nudes within the scene, Callas juxtaposes monochrome with unexpected bursts of color. Woven through the fabric cushioning and Cupid’s wings and bow, punctuations of yellow, pink, green and blue transform the recognizable painting into an unexpected and accessible reincarnation. Shifting the tone of the allegorical narrative with a contemporary application of paint, an unabashed palette, and hard-edged blocking of shapes, Callas honors the integrity and craftsmanship of the original work while bringing Bronzino’s oeuvre into the 21st century.

In JoAnne Artman Gallery, New York’s Fall 2020 show, Yes, Masters: A MANthology, Callas continues his exploration and reinvention of esteemed works by Europe’s Old Masters and reconstructing them in a modern context.

Now on View at JoAnne Artman Gallery, Laguna Beach

326 N Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 | 511A West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011 Contact: JoAnne Artman Telephone: 949-510-5481 || E-mail: [email protected] Website:

JoAnne Artman Gallery