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"David Bowie Is"-- A Musician's Amazing Legacy

Ellen Levitt

Posted on April 8, 2018 18:48

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The Brooklyn Museum is the final destination for an amazing exhibition of the artist's artifacts.

Whether you like a few of David Bowie's hit songs or are a long-time fan, the "David Bowie Is" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, now through July 15th, is a one-of-a-kind collection of an artist's influences and work.

This exhibit was organized by London's Victoria and Albert Museum and has traveled to ten other cities, before landing in Brooklyn, New York for its final run. 

Including about 500 items, some shown specifically in Brooklyn, "David Bowie Is" brings together this Renaissance man's music, costumes, artwork and many other objects.

At times the layout is plainly dizzying, even overwhelming, but visitors get to see his hand-written lyrics, the artwork he produced for his concert tours and albums, the clothing he wore for performances (some of it mundane, others spectacularly flamboyant) and much more.

Would you expect to see the keys for his Berlin flat? They are included. A series of baby pictures? Copies of many of his 45s? These too.

An overriding theme to the items displayed here and the layout (which goes back and forth between decades, in many sections) is that the man known to the world as David Bowie, and born David Jones, controlled nearly every aspect of his work.

He was ever so deliberate in the ways he presented his music and image, the packaging, his moves on stage, his personas (among the best known were Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke) and much more. 

The beginning of the exhibit shows his early years and items reflecting his myriad influences (including, perhaps surprisingly, a beloved photo of Little Richard) but his influences, and there were many, are on display throughout the show.

Japanese art and theater, German music and style, folk and psychedelic music, avant garde jazz, electronic and soul music, dystopian fiction and free verse: these were among the sources upon which he drew for his songwriting, his costumes and stage sets, his paintings and sketches.

You are struck by the sheer theatricality of his work, by the many different styles and roles he created for himself. You can see in this show that he experimented constantly, even in his later years. And he would bring back themes and mutate them for various purposes. (Think of "Space Oddity" which led years later to "Ashes to Ashes," for instance).

Each visitor to the exhibition is given headphones and a radio to wear; you hear music and segments of actual Bowie interviews which correspond to the different areas. While fun and highly informative, it makes for an experience in which each person is kind of in their own shell (except when trying to squeeze past slower-moving patrons).

But the last big room, which plays segments from concerts, is where you shed headphones and listen together with others. This was one of my favorite parts of the exhibition, listening to and watching versions of "Rebel Rebel" and "Heroes." 

Bring your sense of awe and you will be rewarded. I was. 

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on April 8, 2018 18:48

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Today would have been David Bowies 70th birthday (its hard to believe that the music genius died almost a year ago, on 10...

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