On January 10, 2016, David Bowie passed away. He was a remarkable human being and artist, and his loss is still felt today. In a world that has literally been turned upside down since his death, the Forest Lawn Museum's exhibit, David Bowie: Among The Mexican Masters couldn’t be more timely. Curated by Ana Pescador (director of Forest Lawn Museum), the exhibit is part of a cultural exchange program between Los Angeles and Mexico City. Instead of us being besieged by political rhetoric of building a wall between our countries, cultural exchanges of this nature reinforce the importance of art in our society and reflect on our common humanity, regardless of race or cultural experience. Through exhibits like these, people have a chance to deal directly with the human condition as well as to be educated and gain empathy.
Not only is the current context of the exhibit impressionable, but also how the exhibit came about wonderfully capturing Bowie in both public and private moments throughout Mexico City. Mexican photographer, Fernando Aceves’ images of David Bowie are from Bowie’s 1997 tour in Mexico City and are on exhibit for the first time in the United States. More than 35 color images capture intimate and candid moments between the legendary musician and the cultural heritage of Mexico, taken during Bowie’s only visit to the city. It was during that visit that Aceves, a celebrated local rock and jazz photographer, was commissioned to accompany the British rock star on a rich cultural tour through the city over a three day period. He set out to document his visits to some of the most famous landmarks that included the works of muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, the Frida Kahlo Museum, the pyramids of Teotihuacan and other historic sites.
Aceves was first introduced to Bowie as an actor in the 1976 film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, the story of an alien (Bowie), who came to Earth from a planet suffering from severe drought. He used this inspiration and shot his icon in a similar context as an “alien” in a fantastic land. Aceves captured Bowie’s sense of wonderment and amazement as he looked at art and visited various historic landmarks. The portraits are not only of Bowie but also share the spotlight with the various art and cultural surroundings.
The resulting exhibit, “David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters pays homage to the legacy of an artist who transformed the world of music and art, as well as a down-to-earth man, who felt strong admiration and respect for other cultures around the world,” said Ana Pescador. “With David Bowie as their tour guide, visitors are taken on an inspirational tour of Mexico City through the eyes of Fernando Aceves so they too can appreciate all the cultural, artistic and historic treasures the city has to offer.”
The exhibit includes a video installation featuring photographs and Bowie's music that tells the history of the cultural sites depicted in the exhibition, including the National Palace, Palace of Fine Arts, Teotihuacan and the Frida Kahlo Museum.
Aceves recalled that Bowie had done his research and knew exactly what he wanted to see on the visit. “These photographs would be only a reference for him, that was the goal, recording the visit and nothing else.” Bowie followed up with a letter to Aceves thanking him for the time they worked together on the photo shoot and provided instructions on the formats for the images to be delivered for a commissioned magazine article that never came to fruition. Aceves pointed out that Bowie didn't just look at the big picture but was more interested in the details of what he was observing.
“I think that any photographer’s dream is to encapsulate a special moment or scenario that will offer a narrative to awaken the world’s interest,” said Aceves. “However, this photo assignment was more than capturing the British artist David Bowie contemplating masterpieces. I had the privilege to observe a man expressing great respect and deep admiration for our Mexican culture.”
David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters is a uniquely important exhibition that builds on Forest Lawn Museum’s ongoing efforts to present subjects and installations that resonate with contemporary society and today’s broader cultural context.
David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters will be open to the public from January 27 through June 15, 2017 at the Forest Lawn Museum, Forest Lawn-Glendale, 1712 S. Glendale Blvd., Glendale, California. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission and parking are FREE. Call 800-204-3131 or visit www.forestlawn.com for more information.