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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 7, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 27
MoPOP's new Bowie exhibit showcases rare moments of the music icon
Arts & Entertainment
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MoPOP's new Bowie exhibit showcases rare moments of the music icon

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

'BOWIE BY MICK ROCK'
MUSEUM OF POP CULTURE
July 1-January 15


Years before David Bowie shot to international fame with his first mainstream hit album, 1982's Let's Dance, he played small theaters and clubs decorated in makeup, wearing feminine clothes and sharing intimate moments with close friends like Mick Jagger and Lou Reed.

These were formidable years in Bowie's career, a time when he was recognized more as an innovative, trailblazer and less of a pop star. This is before he shapeshifted from underground androgynous glam rocker to Top 40 recording artist, an important era when he was evolving into an iconic persona.

On hand to capture this time period, thankfully, was Mick Rock, Bowie's personal photographer for 18 months in 1972 and 1973. Through his lens, we gain access into the front rows and hotel rooms, as well as on board buses and trains that provide up close and personal exposure to the late musician, places where very few, or no one, was allowed. And though some of Rock's photographs have been featured in magazines or books since then, never have they been collected and displayed under one roof until now.

'Bowie by Mick Rock' is a new exhibit at MoPOP, formerly Experience Music Project, that brings all these photos together, 65 of them total. Situated in the Northwest Gallery inside the pop culture museum, a space that became vacant when the Nirvana exhibit was sent temporarily to Brazil (it returns early next year), the Bowie exhibit neatly lines two walls that curve around, where guests can also view the singer-songwriter's first four music videos, like 'The Jean Genie,' and vintage performance footage of the musician getting ready for an appearance.

If you're a loyal Bowie fan, you can't help but linger longingly at some of Rock's original images that show the musician posing sensually in high-waisted, wide leg pants and tight shirt, or standing on stage in skimpy, glittery outfits and women's shoes, or my favorite, wearing a short-cut kimono with satin toe-less boots as he was kissing a fan during a concert. I nearly cried looking at many of them, but I also considered how courageous Bowie was at such an early point in his career, to push the boundaries of masculinity, or rather intertwine masculinity and femininity at a time when nobody else remotely famous was doing it.

These beginning years for Bowie pinpoint a period when he not only experimented musically, but also sexually. There were rumored encounters with other men, such as Jagger and possibly Reed, and numerous escapades with women, which depicted him having a diverse and abundant sexual appetite. One of Rock's photos features Bowie and Reed lunging at each other for a kiss at a restaurant table, as a hidden Jagger sits to the side of them.

The famous shot of Bowie, Reed and Iggy Pop, seen on many websites following the 'Space Oddity' singer's death last year, at the Dorchester Hotel in London, is on display at the MoPOP exhibit, as is a rare photo of him sitting down to lunch on a train to Aberdeen that same year, in 1973. I personally loved a picture of Bowie kneeling and praying in 1972, before appearing at the Chicago Auditorium Theater and a photo of him performing with Mick Ronson in rolled up metallic pants and high heels imprinted with palm trees. He had such unique, bold and incredible style.

Guests can access the 'Bowie by Mick Rock' exhibit with standard admission to MoPOP, located at Seattle Center just north of the Space Needle. No flash photography or selfie sticks are allowed. The exhibit, which also includes an original soundtrack, audio tour, oral history interviews and other photos by Rock of Debbie Harry, Freddie Mercury and Syd Barrett, to name a few, runs through January 15, 2018. Special merchandise coinciding with this exhibit is available for purchase at the MoPOP gift shop.

For more information, visit MoPOP.org.

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