Twenty-year-old photography archive David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters captured the musical revolutionary as he outfitted a new persona: humble tourist.
By Brenda Hernández | Jan. 30, 2017
Kaleidoscopic frescos overwhelm canvas walls brimmed to high ceilings and underlined by staircases in the National Palace in Mexico City. They are an epic, visual poem of the country’s history from the glorified days of the pre-Hispanic years to the torment of the Conquest, producing a 1930s Mexico with an earned heritage.
But in these photos of grand paintings, a recognizable subject interrupts the eye, competing for the viewer’s visual interest. Pointing onward at the artistic summaries and then paused in awed tranquility, the late David Bowie’s unmistakeable thin lips and famous dilated pupil appear in a recently emerged 27-photograph collection revering the city’s landmarks, titled David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters.
Visitors of Forest Lawn Museum’s exhibit, which had its debut on Friday, won’t witness the ever-changing chameleon that revolutionized the music industry and beyond, but a simple traveler satisfying wanderlust.
The free-of-charge exhibit features unpublished photographs of the starman on his only trip to Mexico City during his world tour promoting Earthling in 1997. Shot by Mexican rock photographer Fernando Aceves, the archive was originally intended to accompany Bowie’s essay for Modern Painters Magazine, which never made it into print.
Now 20 years later, these intimate snapshots are as relevant as ever, assuming a new statement as they’re hung in a new social context – the 2017 celebration of the cultural exchange between Mexico City and Los Angeles.
Of no coincidence, the showcase juxtaposes the current, contentious political rapport between Mexico and the United States, as the 45th president’s actions have estranged the neighboring countries from one another diplomatically and potentially, in the near future, physically.
Aceves captured Bowie blending into Diego Rivera murals in the National Palace and exploring Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul. He’s sunlit at sacred pyramids of Teotihuacán and captivated by David Alfaro Siqueiros’ and José Clemente Orozco’s murals.
The photographs depict a celebration of cultural exchange between Mexico City and David Bowie. This appreciation clarifies as he fuses with Diego Rivera’s mural of Man, Controller of the Universe, lost in the art-deco Palace of Fine Arts, and candidly, as a fascinated tourist drunk on the richness of the Mexican culture.
David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters reminds the viewer that appreciating one’s surroundings – as unfamiliar as they may be – won’t harm the foreigner. The immersion will only broaden the outsider’s perspective, reminding them that there’s a whole world out there.
Parallels continue within the name of the exhibit itself. Like Bowie, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco were not only masters in their profession, but also revolutionists in their art.
David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters is a free entry exhibit at Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale. Visitors can admire these unique photographs on Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The photography exhibit will be featured until July 1, and then it will be available to the Mexican public in Mexico City.