Museum  June 6, 2018  Nicole Restaino

"David Bowie is" Spans Icon’s Career

Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.

Though the handwritten lyrics and glittering costumes satisfy the crowds flocking to David Bowie is at the Brooklyn Museum, it is rich, unique storytelling that truly sets the popular exhibition apart. The show, which probes the legend’s fifty year career, originated at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, but is splendidly organized for the Brooklyn’s space by their Director of Exhibition Design, Matthew Yokobosky. His design, along with the layering of sound, video, media, objects, photographs, and archival materials, provides depth and demonstrates, perhaps more than any other element, the multiplicitous breath of Bowie’s career.

Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

David Bowie, 1973. Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita. Copyright Sukita/The David Bowie Archive

Concepts, relationships and impulses as diverse as Bowie’s career frame the exhibition; there is no overarching schema or straightforward narrative organizing the show. For example, some sections, such as “Stage and Screen,” focus on a particular medium. This portion of the exhibition includes clips of Bowie’s work on film, such as his haunting turn in Nicholas Roeg’s renowned The Man Who Fell to Earth. It also features ephemera from the icon’s theater work, such as The Elephant Man, along with interpretive texts and materials expounding on Bowie’s acting techniques and his history with performance.

Other sections contextualize Bowie’s working methods, influences, and collaborations to demonstrate the breadth of his work. The exhibition takes a deep dive into Bowie’s processes, and sections on songwriting and recording are rich with archival documents that reveal a master at work. While walking through this section, snippets of interviews play on the headsets distributed upon entry, immersing visitors in Bowie’s own words.

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.
Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.
Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.
Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.
Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.
Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

David Bowie is, March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018, installation view.

David Bowie is also includes segments focused on the legend’s career-defining epochs, songs, or albums. Some of his best work is treated therein, including the breakout hit “Space Oddity,” his final album “Black Star,” and his legendary flirtation with electronic and experimental music during the so-called Berlin era. These sections include musical accompaniment via the aforementioned headsets. 

David Bowie evaded definitions and expectations throughout his career. The chaotic, layered nature of David Bowie is matches his artistic and personal complexity. And, though this approach may confound those seeking a chronological walk through his legendary life, it behooves the rich histories and textures of its subject. 

David Bowie is runs through July 15, 2018 at the Brooklyn Museum. For more information visit https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/davidbowieis

About the Author

Nicole Restaino

Nicole Restaino is an arts administrator, project manager, and programs and performance curator. She's trained in Art History and Public Humanities, and has a deep interest in the interpretation, circulation, display, trade and curation of art and cultural production.

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