The Hilton Brothers, as an artistic identity, comes out of a series of collaborations Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg began while traveling some seven 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 proceed to explore other collaborative projects. Makos and Solberg began calling their collective works, and themselves the Hilton Brothers.

During this period Makos was working on a book for Glitterati Publishers called Equipose, wherein he basically re-imagined and re-thought accepted imagery of horses. Rather than objectify the animals, he very much deconstructed them into their most intimately identifiable parts as individual personalities. The resulting images are perhaps the most interesting and contemporary work done in the equine portrait tradition since George Stubbs.

At the same time, Solberg had independently been working on a series of photographic flower "Portraits". Solberg's photographs of single flowers, exquisitely composed and lit, pare the images down to the intensity of color and form.

When Makos and Solberg spent time together proofing their respective works they realized that some of the flowers and horses, with their exquisite color and intriguing shapes made very strong images when combined and printed as diptychs.

The Hippofolium Portfolio is the result of this collaboration. Each diptych is the outcome of a rigorous process of selection, rejection and ultimate decision by Makos and Solberg. This is followed by a strenuous proofing process that brings together their unique eyes for detail, form and color, so that each individual print stands strongly on its own as a true statement of shared vision from these two very different, very talented artists.




Christopher Makos + Paul Solberg

WE THE PEOPLE is the most recent body of work from the collaborative duo, Makos and Solberg. After years in and out of China, they've witnessed the second eye open of the Sleeping Giant.

The duo observes the parallels and contradictions of American and Chinese culture, where the old world becomes new again and the new world confronts its adolescence. Makos and Solberg have spent years traveling through both countries; annually driving through the Great Outwest of North America, to train trips to Xi'an and Chengdu, Beijing to Shanghai. Along with their own photographs, they collected American and Chinese iconography, exploring the symbolism, myth, and parody of both cultures.

Spending an afternoon with a Colorado rancher or with farmers living along the Great Wall, the duo is drawn to the common thread of both cultures, with their camera as their sewing machine.

Warhol famously chose Mao as a subject matter after his impressions from Mao's "Little Red Book". Like many Chinese artists of the 1970's and 80's, Ai Weiwei responded to the populist nature of Warhol's work, with the Warhol Diaries as the first window into the world of popular western art.

Chinese artists saw Warhol as a liberating figure, and freely borrowed from American art to find their new Post-Mao-global voice. Ai Weiwei effectively drew from the visual vocabulary of western pop art to remark on social issues in China.

Makos and Solberg continue in this tradition of social commentary in WE THE PEOPLE. They explore the old world's confrontation with the new. Who they are and who they were? Technology confronts culture. Distance measured in bandwidth instead of miles. Automation replaces man while man struggles with its post-automation-identity.

Through their pictures, Chris and Paul propose questions of progress, colonization, patriotism, and climate. While the new American Cowboy struggles with identity in an automated world, the bravado of a new Cowboy is heard across the Pacific, as the middle class shrink in the west, while the other spills into Africa. Both cultures, while occasional victims of self-satisfaction, maintain a defiant optimistic spirit.



The Hilton Brothers latest collaboration, ANDY DANDY, is a portfolio of 20 digital pigment prints. All are diptychs that combine images from Makos "Altered Image" portraits of Andy Warhol with flower images from Solberg's "Bloom" series.

The images of Andy Warhol in "Andy Dandy" are the result of a 1981 collaboration between Makos and Warhol called "Altered Image", through which the photographer and his subject used unexpected combinations of simple elements to explore Identity, as did Man Ray (Makos' mentor) and Duchamp decades earlier. Warhol slightly altered his appearance with make-up and a wig, otherwise remaining in his street clothes. It was all the outward change Warhol felt he needed. Andy said, "I'm not trying to look beautiful like Elizabeth Taylor, I'm trying to show what it feels like to be beautiful like Elizabeth Taylor."

Solberg undertook his study of flowers as an exercise in using light to reveal the elemental purity of a subject otherwise encumbered by overexposure and banality, resulting in sensitive portraits rather than still life images. Like the "Altered Image" photos, many of Solberg's flowers are isolated subjects against a white background. This common white ground in the ANDY DANDY diptychs brings the disparate images into balance. ANDY DANDY considers the rich association between Andy Warhol and flowers by creating a beautiful and intriguing dialogue between Makos' and Solberg's work.

Andy wasn't the kind of dandy to wear a flower in his lapel, but as ANDY DANDY demonstrates, sometimes by just altering the image of one's work or oneself, a new beauty blooms.

Peter Wise NYC 2April, 2008


Click here: The Hilton Brothers + Christopher Makos + Paul Solberg - YouTube

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