David Bowie photography exhibit is a must-see
By Naughty Mickie

In 1997 Mexican photographer Fernando Aceves was hired by David Bowie to accompany him on a culture and art tour of Mexico City and take images during stops at landmarks, including work by muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, the Freda Kahlo Museum and pyramids of Teotihuacan. The photos were to be part of an article Bowie was working on for “Modern Painters” magazine. The story was never published, but Aceves' work didn't go to waste. More than 25 of the photographs are on display in “David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters” at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale through June 15.

Forest Lawn Museum director and curator Ana Pescador previously served as the director of the Latino Museum of History, Art and Culture in Los Angeles and also worked for the Mexican Counsulate in Los Angeles. She showed a few of Aceves' images at the counsulate and the two kept in touch, with him eventually sharing the rest of the Bowie portfolio with Pescador.

“I totally fell in love with the images. I saw many connections in terms of how we could present this exhibit at Forest Lawn and I thought it was an amazing portfolio,” Pescador said. “In Los Angeles, in New York, these masters, Rivera,Siquerios, they were a huge influence on the muralism movement.”

Forest Lawn serves the community with cultural and historical programming and art and readily recognized the importance of showcasing an exhibit like this. It fits in well with the art pieces in the venue’s permanent collection, which, like the show, provide an opportunity for people to see art from places in the world that they might not get to see otherwise.

“David Bowie was a patron of the arts. He used to commission young artists, especially of the London Academy of the Arts, he used to give many scholarships to students who wanted to continue their education in art. He was a patron of the arts by sponsoring, by allowing emerging artists to evolve and create,” Pescador said. “Also he was an artist, he used to paint.”

Pescador added that Bowie said that his wife, Iman, complained that wherever he went he bought art. He had a huge collection.

“We wanted to present this exhibit as educational. You have this man, he was a creator and you can see a very supernatural human being admiring other artists. It’s an opportunity for those who can’t travel to Mexico.” “It’s an opportunity to see David Bowie as a human being, someone who’s guiding you through those exhibits,” Pescador said.

“The first time I saw David Bowie it was not on an album listening to a music, the first time was as an actor in ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth,’" photographer Aceves said. "These photographs remind me so much of that character. These photographs show a person not human, not from planet Earth.

“David Bowie had his own agenda before arriving in Mexico,” Aceves continues. “I was like a fly on the wall, I was walking beside him and just thinking which one would be the best image to take because he was not allowing me to take so many pictures, you can take he said, but it has to be a good picture.

Bowie taught Aceves that a picture has to be seen before taking it and would make suggestions as to where he would look good at the different sites. The two worked well together as professionals pursuing as story, as well as fellow artists.

“It was like working with an old friend. It was the first time I met him, but he looked at me like a friend from childhood or something like that. He was so warm and so open that in a few moments I forgot the size of the character. I forgot who he was because of his warm character, so it made things really easy,” Aceves said.

Aceves has two favorite images from the shoot. “Diego Rivera’s Mural, Mexico National Palace,” a profile shot of Bowie where he blends into the painting. He looks like one of the students depicted and “you can see how he can be inside any environment as part of it.” And “Foil Mask at Frida Kahlo’s Blue House” - “He has an aluminum mask close to him and it seems that there is another mask, a mask within a mask.”

“I like everything I’m showing in this exhibition, but especially these two,” Aceves said. “They’re very intimate and when you see them you don’t think he’s a musician, you may think he’s more like a theater actor. I like these photographs because it’s not like you’re looking at David Bowie. It’s a mix of reality and the world in the painting.”

Aceves shares that Bowie "paved the way of my start in shooting portraits because after that I did so many other projects with so many other artists.” Today he's always working, photographing many musician portraits and covering bigger things.

“I like to do festivals right now, I’m not a big fan of single concerts, I still do them, but I feel more happy at a festival because it’s like going to the buffet, you only takes what looks better and what you really like. Of course you cannot eat all, but you have the freedom to choose what you want,” Aceves said.

Aceves hopes visitors to “David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters” will see more in the photographs than an icon in legendary places.

“These photographs are special, not for any publicity purpose, not for a record cover, it was just common photographs of a common guy on a common day in a special place,” Aceves said. “Please see David Bowie as a person. Through these photographs you will see a David far away from fashion, from the rock star, you can see the common man, the universal man.”

You can see “David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters” 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday through June 15 at the Where: Forest Lawn Museum, Forest Lawn-Glendale, 1712 S. Glendale Blvd., Glendale. Admission is free. For more information, call 800-204-3131 or go to www.forestlawn.com.

See more of Fernando Aceves' work at www.fernandoaceves.com 

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