October 07, 2013

The Extraordinary Talents of David Bowie

Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is the 2nd stop for the touring exhibition, David Bowie Is, after it's debut at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London earlier this year. David Bowie is an unusual subject for this blog, as he is primarily a musician and performer, but his style and creative output influenced many contemporary artists.

David Bowie himself was influenced by traditional and contemporary artforms and expressed these influences through his costumes, designs for sets and album covers, music, films and theater. The costume that opens the show, above, is inspired by Japanese kabuki theater whose performers wear elaborate costumes and make up.

The video installation below shows David Bowie's first TV performance on UK's Top of the Pops with a costume inspired by the movie A Clockwork Orange.

Another installation brings together all his influences from books hanging from the ceiling, to images and videos of artists, actors, films projected on 3D screens, with costumes displayed across the space. 
He collaborated with other artists and avant garde designers, such as Alexander McQueen while Mcueen was still a student.

Thierry Mugler, known for his futuristic designs, created the outfit in the middle, below.

Other extravagant costumes on display are below.
David Bowie sought to shock and provoke on stage and through all media where he appeared. Below is artwork for an album cover that he commissioned from illustrator Guy Peellaert, depicting him as half man, half dog.
Among other artists with whom Bowie collaborated was Tony Oursler, who created music videos. Below are puppets Oursler created for a concert with David Bowie's face projected on them.
Bowie painted too. Below is a self-portrait that he painted for an album cover.
His other paintings shown below demonstrate his influence by German Expressionism.

One of the most interesting things that I learned in this exhibition is that, before he started his career in music David Bowie worked in advertising. It explains why he was so successful in synthesizing art, design and contemporary culture, and melding influences wide ranging from Marlene Dietrich to Sigmund Freud, to construct a unique image and promote it so spectacularly. 

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