The Hilton Brothers & Andy Warhol

Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg show their Andy Dandy diptychs at Barcelona's Espace Cultural Ample

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Christopher Makos documented Andy Warhol's fleeting visit to China back in the day, shooting photographs of the Pop artist out of his element in Tiananmen Square and walking on the Great Wall. Spain was another stop-off in 1982 for Warhol and Makos, who shot all the main players of La Movida – the groundswell of music, film and art that built around Madrid after the death of Franco. Makos's ties to both countries are still strong. He and photographer Paul Solberg – aka the Hilton Brothers – are working on a portrait project of 100 Chinese nationals in the People's Republic and this month, the pair have their Andy Dandy diptychs (Makos's portraits of Warhol in make-up and a wig) in Proyecto Género 3, a group show at Barcelona's contemporary art space Espace Cultural Ample. Dazed Digital caught up with Makos and Solberg shortly after they touched down in NYC following months on the road. Their last two stops? Madrid and Beijing.

Dazed Digital: How did the idea to meld your photographs come about? And what are you trying to do with these photographs?
Christopher Makos: We are trying to say as little as possible. Hopefully we are saying nothing. The western world is bombarded with so many voices and opinions – we want our work to be a break from all the chatter. The most interesting collaborations are the ones where the collaboration chooses you, rather than it being a conscious decision. It was the case with the Hilton Brothers. It has nothing to do with the past or the future. It has always been about the immediate present and responding to it. There hasn't been anything calculated or premeditated about what we've produced together. It's organic art, free range, grass fed... honest. Now, whether one likes the work is another story. But it is honest.

DD: Tell us about the Warhol in drag shoot. Why did you decide not to put Andy in the dresses Halston sent over?
Christopher Makos: Officially, the artworks are called Altered Image and they are based on the Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray collaboration called Rrose Sélavy. We were trying to just alter a person's image. We weren't trying to re-invent drag. That's why we didn't use Halston's dress. I'll revisit the Andy photos in a new book that's being published by La Fabrica in September, called Lady Warhol. It'll be all the vertical pictures, in a coffee table size.

DD: And what made you decide to pair these portraits with Paul's flowers in the Andy Dandy series?
Christopher Makos: I have always loved the idea of collaboration, whether is was with myself and Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, book publishers, artists etc... and when I met Paul, and felt his energy, I wanted to do something with him. At the time, it wasn't so much about his flowers, but it was about his eye. I knew I wanted to collaborate with him. I love his photographs, I love his flowers.

DD: You've just arrived in NYC from Beijing. What were you up to there?
Paul Solberg: We are doing a portrait project of 100 Chinese nationals. Chris is doing "Piece Portraits" – segmented life-size portraits referencing the clay soldiers in Xian, China, and I am taking the same people and taking more a free-style approach to the portraits, using the energy of the individual as a collaborative tool.

DD: Who would you like to photograph today, and why?
Paul Solberg: The person I would like to photograph is Christopher Makos. I have taken so many pictures of him, but none have been successful. He's uncomfortable in front of the camera, so to capture him relaxed and himself is very difficult.
Christopher Makos: I am sorry to say, I don't have a wish list. I love to photograph Paul Solberg because he is so much fun to photograph. Photography seems to be a means to an end, and I have not reached the end yet, so I am still enjoying the means, the direction, the people.

DD: Do you have a personal favourite among the celebrity photographs you have taken? And can you tell us the story behind it?
Christopher Makos: No, not really. I really love the dogs that I have photographed. They are so innocent, and so real. People come with so many issues attached to them – when you photograph a dog or a cat, it's always fresh.
Paul Solberg: The Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei. Why? Because I think he's one of the most, if not the most important artist living today. Artwork is a matter of life and death for him. Being Chinese in 2010, trying to make a crack in the "Great Wall of Propoganda" – it provides the artist with a counterpoint to work off of; a resistance that is harder to find as an artist in the free west.

DD: You have an exhibition of your polaroids at La Fresh Gallery, Madrid in September. Chris. Can you tell us a little about that show?
Christopher Makos: The exhibition at La Fresh Gallery will be sx-70 polaroids from the 1970s. They are all one of a kind photographs, but they are also more than photographs – they are actual documents of that very crazy time. As Calvin Klein points out in the introduction: in those days, you would take a polaroid, and give it to a friend, but in today's world, it is suddenly on Facebook, or MySpace. It was a much more innocent time.

DD: Is the idea to draw parallels between the scene around the Factory and the Madrid Movida?
Christopher Makos:  There are parallels to Factory and the Madrid Movida, but they are implied by the energy of the times, both in New York and Madrid – the explosion of the arts, the energy of the times, and the freedom; creatively, sexually and socially.

DD: You brought the Madrid Movida to the world's attention when you visited Spain with Warhol in the 80s and photographed the key players for Interview magazine...
Christopher Makos: When I came to Madrid to photograph the key players, it was an exciting time. They were all so fresh, and ready to be photographed, exploited, talked to, played with, dealt with... The bottom line is that they were aware that this was their time, and we were all their sharing it at the same time. It was so free, compared to the years before that were the Franco times. Although I didn't know the Franco times, you could feel it in some of the older people. They still had a stiffness, a rigidness that was out of place of the times. Madrid still has the same energy, and freshness of the Movida times, unlike other European countries, which just seem to rely on their history. Madrid/Spain always seems to be interested in the cutting-edge of what's going on in the world. ARCO is a very good example of that progressiveness.

DD: Tell us a secret about Warhol...
Christopher Makos: Andy was a secret litterer. He sometimes would not throw the garbage in the garbage pales, he would sometimes just throw the garbage in the street.

DD: What's next?
Christopher Makos: Everything is next, everything that is possible is next, one's career is a work in progress. There are exhibitions planned for South America, a polaroid show at Christopher Henry Gallery, New York City on April 22, there will be a Hilton Brothers opening at Ralph Pucci space in New York on May 20th, the book Lady Warhol by La Fabrica comes out in September 2010 worldwide, then there's the future, and that's a secret for now.

Proyecto Género 3 is at Espace Cultural Ample, Barcelona until June 26.

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