Christopher Makos, Dirty @Daniel Cooney

JTF (just the facts): A total of 40 photographic works, generally framed in white and matted, and hung against grey and white walls in the two room gallery space.

The exhibition includes:

  • 19 gelatin silver prints, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980s, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1987, sized between roughly 4×8 and 20×16 inches (or the reverse)
  • 1 gelatin silver print with pencil markings, 1981, sized 8×10 inches
  • 3 gelatin silver print diptychs, 2020, sized 14×11 inches
  • 4 sets of 4 stitched gelatin silver prints, undated, 1991, 1995, sized 20×16 inches
  • 1 collage of 4 Polaroids, 1987, sized roughly 9×4 inches
  • 1 gelatin silver print collage, 1977, sized 8×10 inches
  • 1 silver oxide print, undated, sized 10×8 inches
  • 10 Polaroid prints, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1986, 1993, sized roughly 4×3 or 4×4 inches

(Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Given the enveloping brightness of Andy Warhol’s fame, it’s not entirely surprising that many of his closest artistic collaborators and friends have been overshadowed. After first apprenticing with Man Ray in the 1970s, Christopher Makos fell into Warhol’s orbit and became a key member of the Factory. Makos documented the goings on, made portraits of Andy and the constant stream of celebrities that flowed through, worked at Interview, was Andy’s studio assistant, and even taught Warhol about photography. He was an insider and confidante, and as a result, his own artistic impulses have been somewhat muddied by the constant intermingling with Warhol’s sprawling legacy.

This smartly edited show gathers together a range of Makos’s work, providing some evidentiary answers to where the artistic separation between Warhol and himself actually lies. In one group of works, Warhol himself is, of course, the central subject. Makos makes candid images of Andy kissing Liza Minelli, John Lennon, and various other stars, with a mugging Warhol clearly aware of the presence of the camera. The same awareness can be found in a contact sheet of posed studio shots of Warhol in a curly wig and white bedsheet wrap, where Andy actively experiments with an androgynous look. Makos also made images of Warhol at work making his own photographs, the nested layers of Makos making a picture of Warhol making a picture of a posed male nude creating a sense of Warhol being captured in situ. A similar intimacy is seen in Makos’s image of Warhol getting a massage, Andy’s body trussed up in a brace (after he had been shot) and looking altogether like a mannequin.

Makos’s studio portraits show the visible signs of 1980s commercial magazine styling, but when he then takes these source images and overlaps, multiplies, and repeats the images in finished works, they take on a different character. Variant frames of Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and football star Willie Gault are printed together in jittering overlapped three-image combinations, creating the appearance of movement in and out and of time passing between moments, resulting in rounder characterizations than we normally get with a single image. Makos then amplified the multiplication further in images of actor Christopher Reeve and John Lennon, creating gridded foursomes of repetition that are slightly misaligned, like a flickering film strip.

Warhol was, of course, intensely interested in image replication and repetition, so the genesis of discrete artistic ideas between the two gets a bit hard to untangle. One area where the provenance is clear is the idea of stitching images into four image grids – Makos’s mother was a seamstress and Makos got the idea of sewing images together from seeing her work. He first sewed loose prints into grids in 1976, and then shared the idea with Warhol, who went on to stitch his own pictures together in the next decade. In this show, several Makos grids (pearls, handguns, male nudes, a uniformed man) explore the options, from four image repetitions to alternating pairs intermixed, creating echoes, contrasts, and edge-to-edge connections. Other works on view push further toward physical collage, with a standing (and enduringly photogenic) Debbie Harry constructed from four separate prints stapled together to torn fragments of Richard Hell and Patti Smith added to the front of CBGB. And three recent Makos works continue to explore the multiplication theme, doubling disembodied eyes and mouths into unsettling clusters of floating attention.

What comes through most in this show is a sense of constant experimentation and improvisation, with Makos and Warhol both moving, seeing, creating, and responding to the scene around them. A single photographic image was almost never enough – and the most original Makos works in this show attempt to push beyond the inherent limits of one frame.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show range in price from $2000 to $17500. Makos’s work has very little secondary market history in the past decade, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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JTF (just the facts): Published in 2024 by Little Big Man Books (here). Softbound with dust jacket, 10 x 7 inches, 292 pages with numerous color photographs. Includes a text ... Read on.

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