Hurriedly prepping for a Hong Kong AmfAR benefit and Art Basel Hong Kong, Christopher Makos tells Central Voice why he and his collaborative partner Paul Solberg chose Milford, PA for a decampment.
“It was a deliberate process,” Makos explains. “We needed additional studio and storage space. Milford is one hour and twenty-two minutes from our West Village residence. It’s an addendum,” he said. There is no gallery space or public accommodations at their new space. Makos still bikes to his West Village studio and Milford’s scale allows him to also bike around.
Makos actually taught Andy Warhol how to use a camera.
“He was all point and shoot. I wanted to show him the many other aspects of photography and I was able to show him that,” Makos explains. He was at Warhol’s side between 1976 and 1978, when Warhol’s third Factory location, 860 Broadway, was in full swing.
Behind the bar in Bar Louie, a lower-level hot spot in Milford’s Hotel Fauchere, hotel guests and other visitors can see the iconic photograph of Warhol kissing John Lennon taken by Makos.
“Andy had me taking photographs of people kissing one another,” Makos said. And in a more recent Bar Louie installation, some of those photographs of folks kissing – Liza Minelli and Lennon, Salvatore Dali kissing Andy, Mick Jagger at the Factory, Andy kissing Philip Johnson, Debbie Harry Laughing at the Factory, Andy with Elizabeth Taylor, Andy with Bill Murray, Andy being Crowned Paris, Jean Michel Basquiat, Jack Nicholson now cleanly populated three walls. Each is a Pigment Giclee photograph printed in New York City under Makos’ supervision.
What’s the creative impulse behind what Makos captures in his photographs?
Christopher Isherwood said “I am a camera”. Makos has said “My camera is pretty much a paint brush.” Makos has successfully combined camera and paintbrush. One gets a chill viewing each photograph so real in the ‘moment’ captured you feel like you’re standing right there and heard the camera click.
Makos posits the one undying aspect of Warhol’s work. “When your brand is America you’re never out of style, you’re never out of favor” he points out, referring to Campbell’s Soup Cans, Brillo, and ‘celebrity,’ in some ways a uniquely American phenomena.
Peeling away another artistic layer, art historian Debra Miller, author of Out of the Shadow: Artists of the Warhol Circle, Then and Now, explained when speaking years ago at the Art of Association of Harrisburg explained that Warhol wanted to portray what American’s ate for lunch, much the same way Dutch and Flemish artists did. And they were criticized at the time as was Warhol.
“I think that’s why we continually see Warhol circulate and flow back into art and culture and people’s sensibility not only from that time but moving forward,” Makos says.
The Hilton Brothers is an artistic identity that comes out of a series of collaborations Makos and Solberg began while traveling some 15 years ago. Finding that they were both drawn to similar subject matter when they were out in a foreign, beautiful location, they began to shoot the same subjects, almost as a joke.
Back in the studio, looking at the printed results it was fascinating for them to see where their sensibilities merged and diverged. The idea of identity, who took which picture, and why was the difference discernable led them to begin a series of diptychs, where they would photograph separate objects and bring them together in one print: one plus one equals a third new artwork.
So it seemed with their artistic identities, a blurring of individual egos to explore other collaborative projects. Having been conjoined by choice since they met, Makos and Solberg began calling their collective works, and themselves, the Hilton Brothers, a second identity they share since 2004, in the spirit of the Hilton Sisters of Vaudeville fame circa 1930’s.
And now the Makos-Solberg collaboration includes Milford.