Topics in the News
Art and Politics
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established by Congress in 1965 to serve "the public good by nurturing human creativity, supporting community spirit, and fostering appreciation of the excellence and diversity of our nation's artistic accomplishments." Since then it has provided grants to artists, museums, and galleries to encourage artists whose work shows promise but is unlikely to attract large audiences or private funding. In May and June 1989 controversy erupted in Congress over NEA support for Andres Serrano, whose Piss Christ is a photograph of a crucifix immersed in Serrano's urine, and Robert Mapplethorpe, whose photographs included homoerotic and sadomasochistic images. On 12 June, fearful of a political battle over its federal funding, the Corcoran Museum in Washington, D.C., canceled Mapplethorpe's controversial show, The Perfect Moment, which had already been exhibited in Philadelphia and Chicago and later went on to other cities. For months Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and others excoriated the NEA for subsidizing "disgusting" and "blasphemous" art with taxpayers' money. The annual NEA appropriations bill, passed on 28 October 1989, imposed conditions on future funds for the two institutions that had given grants to Serrano and Mapplethorpe, and it specified that no NEA funding could be used "to promote, disseminate, or produce...
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The Art Market
"Millennium fever" gripped the art market in the 1990s. The London-based Daily Telegraph Art 100 Index, which traces prices of works by the one hundred top artists in the world, reported a price rise of 26 percent from January through November 1998, double the increase for 1997. "The market is extremely strong/' said New York dealer David Nash. "There's a lot of money around, most of it in the hands of Americans and Europeans." Like stock in Internet companies, art works sold for higher and higher prices throughout the 1990s but—as was also the case with internet stocks—prices did not always equate with value. In the early 1990s prices paid for modern masterpieces were already setting records. Constantin Brancusi's 1919 Golden Bird sold for $12 million; Vincent van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Cachet was bought for $82.5 million; and Pierre Renoir's Au Moulin de la Galette went for $78.1 million. With the art market so overheated, even prices for artists whose works were traditionally widely available were high—for example, Edgar Degas's Racehorses brought $9.98 million, and Henri Matisse's The Persian Robe sold for $4,5 million, By the late 1990s, however, the market seemed to have passed its peak. Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr.Cachet was offered for sale privately in 1998 at an asking price of $80 million.
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Tracking Nazi and Soviet Art Thefts.
During World War II the Nazis stole large numbers of art works from Jews who either fled Europe or were sent to concentration camps, and the German army looted works from museums and private collections in occupied countries. Then, as the Third Reich collapsed, the Soviet army sent special brigades to find art treasures in Soviet-occupied Germany. According to one estimate, the Soviets took 2.5 million art works and 10 million books and manuscripts back to Russia. About 1.5 million items were returned to East Germany in the 1950s. In the 1990s several new organizations—the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), the Commission for Art Recovery, and the Art and Archive Foundation—were founded to help survivors and descendants locate missing family heirlooms. As John Marks has pointed out, many survivors and descendants of victims of the Holocaust "see this art not only as a commodity but also as one of their last links to a vanished past. For them, memory and identity are on the line." After a half century, however, efforts to recover missing art works have proved difficult, often because documentation has been lost or destroyed. Some of the lost pieces have found their way into American museums and private collections, and in June 1998 Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, joined with a group of other...
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New Attempts to Define "Art."
In the 1990s even the most knowledgeable and sophisticated critics were some-times hard-pressed to distinguish brilliance from schlock, with conservative critics bemoaning the depths to which so-called artists had fallen. For example, Roger Kimball, managing editor of the conservative art...
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Literature: Fiction Trends
The Decline of Minimalism.
Among the most important literary trends of the 1980s was minimalism, which can in fact be traced back to the spare prose of Ernest Hemingway. Among the best minimalist works are startlingly original, insightful, well-crafted, and moving works such as Ann Beattie's novel Chilly Scenes in Winter (1976) and Raymond Carver's short-story collection Cathedral (1981). By the 1990s, however, minimalism seemed to have exhausted its creative possibilities. Minimalist writers of the 1990s wrote fiction that seemed too restricted, not only in time, place, and plot, but also in the emotional
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Literature: Reading Groups
Though critics were bemoaning the decline in quality of the books on bookstore shelves, reading became more popular in the 1990s than it had been in decades. By 1999 there were approximately five-hundred thousand readers' book clubs in the United States, nearly double the number that existed in 1994. Even before the formation of Oprah Winfrey's Book Club in 1997, the popularity of book clubs had begun to soar. Winfrey's promotion of books and reading on her television show had a major impact on the trend. As Shelly Minton Bostwick, a member of two book-discussion groups in Madison, Wisconsin, explained, "Until Oprah Winfrey's focus, book discussion clubs and groups had always been there, but in a quieter way. Now, thanks in huge part to the power and publicity she commands, everyone has learned about us. Many new people have discovered the joys of reading, sharing and expressing opinions about a selected book." Meeting in libraries, bookstores, and private homes, book clubs attracted readers of all ages and in all regions of the country, appealing to a wide variety of literary tastes. Some were devoted only to mysteries or romances; others focused on classic or contemporary fiction, biography, science fiction, history, or books dealing with social issues. Children's reading groups became especially popular. A survey conducted by Publishers Weekly in 1998 indicated that...
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Updike's Farewell to Rabbit.
During the 1990s several writers who came of age at midcentury published new and often provocative works. Rabbit at Rest (1996), John Updike's fourth and final installment in the saga of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom—which began with Rabbit Run (1961) and continued with Rabbit Redux (1971) and Rabbit is Rich (1981)—completes the story of the former high-school basketball star who has enjoyed the benefits and endured the emptiness of the middle-class American Dream.
The Wolfe Controversy.
Updike was also involved in literary controversy with his criticism of A Man in Full (1998), a novel by Tom Wolfe, who became well-known in the 1960s for journalistic nonfiction such as The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965) and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968). His second novel, A Man in Fully continued the satire of the American middle and upper classes that he had begun in his first, the best-selling Bonfire of the Vanities (1981), turning his story of an Atlanta businessman into a commentary on American life at the end of the century and the millennium. While some reviewers applauded Wolfe's attempt to work with such a large canvas, Updike in his review for The New Yorker characterized Wolfe's novel as "entertainment, not...
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Marketing Minority Literature
The African American Market.
Publishers and book-sellers discovered a large African American market during the 1980s. African American women in particular swarmed bookstores in search of contemporary fiction such as Tina McElroy Ansas Ugly Ways, Bebe Moore Campbell's Brothers and Sisters, and Connie Briscoe's Sisters and Lovers—all published in 1995. "Although women read more in general, there's a higher proportion of female readers in the African-American community," Clara Villarosa, owner of the Hue Man Experience bookstore in Denver, Colorado, said in 1995. "Black women want to pick up a book, sit down and forget about their troubles for the day." A frequent lament among critics, however, was that, as all American readers, African Americans tended to buy popular fiction rather than serious literary works. According to literary agent Denise Stinson, "consumers are continuing to read lighter fare; and not just African Americans, either. People like their literature like TV: entertaining. They don't want to have to think about it when it's over. They don't want to read books like [Toni Morrison's] Beloved.…" During the 1990s publishers tended to neglect serious writers of color, complained Martha Southgate, book editor of Essence magazine. "I've read too many books that are thin retreads of [Terry McMillan's] Waiting to Exhale"...
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Motion Pictures: Politics and History
Life Imitating Art?
Movies of the 1990s expressed Americans' cynicism about politicians and the political process. In Wag the Dog, released in late 1997, presidential advisers create a nonexistent international crisis to divert attention from a breaking story that accuses the president of fondling a young girl. The president's advisers and aides, experts at letting the tail wag the dog, hire a Hollywood producer to give the illusory incident a sense of reality. With his help they create footage of bombed-out villages and manufacture a true-blue American "hero" for public consumption. The following year, during revelations about President William J. Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, pundits frequently accused the president of trying to "wag the dog" to divert attention from the scandal—particularly in December 1998, when he ordered the bombing of Baghdad just as the House of Representatives began debate on whether he should be impeached.
Art Imitating Life?
The Time magazine cover for 16 March 1998 featured a photograph of John Travolta and the words "Lights! Camera! Clinton!" to spotlight coverage of the new political movie Primary Colors, adapted from Washington columnist Joe Klein's anonymous 1996 novel, which was based loosely on President Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign....
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Motion Pictures: Screen Violence
Teen Violence and the Movies.
In the movies of the 1990s violence was more prevalent and more graphic than ever before, even as many educators and politicians—as well as some moviemakers—expressed concerns about the connection between violence on the screen and the increasing levels of violence on the streets and in schools. After the release of Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994), in which a pair of hedonistic sociopaths played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis go on a senseless killing spree, teenaged murderers around the world claimed to have been inspired by the movie. The staging of the shootings at Columbine High School in April 1999 was similar to those in The Basketball Diaries (1995), in which a trench-coat-clad young man with a machine gun attacks people who had mocked him. This sort of violence is different from that in the popular action movies of the 1980s, where heroes such as Rambo sprayed bullets in defense of the American way of life. Rather, movies such as Natural Born Killers and The Basketball Diaries—as well as Kalifornia (1993), in which Lewis and Brad Pitt play serial killers—seem to celebrate purposeless violence in a deliberately provocative manner. Psychologists, politicians, educators, and concerned citizens in general began to discuss what levels of violence were acceptable in motion pictures and when graphic...
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Motion Pictures: Special Effects
During the 1990s, digital sound, editing, photography, and special effects revolutionized movie making, creating the biggest change in how movies are made since the introduction of synchronized sound in 1927. The use of digital editing in Forrest Gump (1994) demonstrates the enormous strides made in motion-picture technology during the 1990s, Gary Sinise plays a character whose legs are blown off in battle. While in earlier movies an actor would have played his scenes with his lower legs taped behind his thighs, digital technology could remove Sinise's legs after the footage was shot. Moviemakers used a blue screen and 3-D digital technology—developed by George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic, the special-effects division of Lucas Film—to create the illusion of a legless actor so successfully that viewers could not tell the scene was digitally enhanced. Also in Forrest Gump, director Robert Zemeckis, who was already well known for his successful blending of live action and animation in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), used computer graphics to put Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, in scenes with presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as George Wallace and John Lennon.
Blending Science and Fantasy
In 1977 the first Star Wars movie amazed moviegoers with heretofore...
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Motion Pictures: The Independents
By the final decades of the twentieth century, independent, or "indie," movies were no longer just low-budget pictures with unusual subject matter that were usually shown in small, so-called art-house theaters because of their lack of appeal to the general public. Instead, an "indie" picture became defined as any movie that was funded by sources other than a major studio, and some of them cost just as much to make as movies made by the studios. Some critics have pointed out that this trend
Two of the best independent movies of the 1990s were Sling Blade (1996), written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, who also starred in his movie, and Fargo (1996), written by Joel and Ethan Coen and directed by Joel Coen. In Sling Blade Thornton plays a mentally deficient man who murders...
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Music: Classical Trends
Music and Money.
Attendance at symphony concerts rose from 24.7 million to 30.8 million between 1989 and 1999, suggesting a modest resurgence of interest in classical music. During the same period, however, the number of classical radio stations declined to fewer than 160. Labor disputes also plagued several major orchestras, including the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, the New Orleans Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. In addition, nineteen of the largest symphony orchestras in the United States had deficits averaging approximately $750,000 per orchestra. These financial woes arose in part because of a congressional reorganization of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that effectively prohibited the NEA from awarding grants to defray operating costs. A decrease in the total appropriations for the NEA since 1996 led to an additional decline of nearly 40 percent in direct federal grants to symphony orchestras. As a result, tax-funded state arts agencies became important sources of income for symphony orchestras throughout the United States. By the 1998-1999 season, more than 44 percent of orchestra revenue came from such organizations.
The Changing Symphony Orchestra.
The Wolf Report (1992), published by the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL), a national organization serving...
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Music: Country Trends
A New Generation.
As country music moved closer to mainstream popular music in the 1990s new female vocalists such as Shania Twain, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, and the Dixie Chicks came to the fore. Male country artists such as Garth Brooks, Steve Earle, Alan Jackson, Marty Stuart, and Tim McGraw were also popular, but many of the top country stars of the 1970s and 1980s disappeared from the charts. Many traditionalists charged that country music was losing its sense of history, but "New Country" star Alison Krauss and mainstream country artist Alan Jackson, among others, continued to highlight their links to classic country.
New Country Women.
The big news in country music during the 1990s was the emergence of new female stars. With her supermodel looks and a sultry, beguiling voice, Canadian Shania Twain would have been called a pop-country crossover singer in the 1980s, but in the 1990s she was considered New Country. In 1995, her second album, The Woman in Me, sold more than 11 million copies in the United States; four singles from the album hit the top of the country charts; and the album crossed over to the top pop charts. By the end of the decade the album had sold 11 million copies, and her next album, Come On Over (1997) had sold 16 million. After the success of her debut album, Blue (1996), thirteen-year-old...
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Music: Grunge Rock
Born in Seattle.
Characterized by distorted guitar sounds and dispirited vocals, the grunge sound emerged in 1991-1992 from the Seattle music scene, where it had been popular for most of the 1980s. As Clark Humphrey has written, it was an "angry, disheveled" version of rock, "stories complete with misconceptions and more than a few downright lies." The grunge movement was supposedly authentic street rock—not a bunch of packaged bands hyped by major music record producers. The bands that succeeded, however, did so because they signed with major record labels, leaving behind other local talent. As Humphrey insisted, "There is no singular "Seattle Sound," but there is a common Seattle attitude. We believe in making great music and art, not in the trappings of celebrity."
The record company most responsible for introducing grunge to a national audience was Seattle-based Sub Pop Records, which signed bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, Blood Circus, Swallow, Nirvana, and TAD. As a means of marketing the sound, the company promoted the bands' anti-yuppie message by distributing T-shirts emblazoned with the word Loser to mock the yuppie obsession with success.
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Music: Heavy Metal and Alternative Rock
After a lull in the middle of the decade heavy metal had a revival toward the end of the 1990s. In 1997 the first Ozzfest, featuring Marilyn Manson, grossed almost as much money as the highest grossing tour package of the women's rock tour Lilith Fair. The metal bands of the 1990s had disparate sounds, but the general approach was aggressive and disturbing lyrics and guitar music with a hint of hip-hop and electrical wizardry. Some bands were classed as "death metal," a reference to their macabre out-look, which seems to appeal mostly to male college students.
The band called Marilyn Manson used neo-Satanism as its gimmick to attract audiences. Their four million fans loved their heavy-metal rock with an occult mystique. The band traces its origins to 1989 when Brian Warner met guitarist Scott Putesky, and the two decided to form a band. Warner assumed the name Marilyn Manson (blending the names of movie star Marilyn Monroe and convicted murderer Charles Manson), and Putesky became Daisy Berkowitz (heiress Daisy Duke and serial killer David Berkowitz). Eventually they added new band members to form Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, but around 1992 the whole group became known as just Marilyn Manson. The following year they were noticed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, signed a recording contract to his...
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Music: Hip-Hop Trends
During the 1990s massive changes took place in hiphop culture. Hip-hop started out in the South Bronx as a street-born cultural movement grounded by what have become known as the four pillars of hip-hop: DJ-ing, MC-ing (later known as rapping), breakdancing, and graffiti art. By the 1990s many of the original elements of hip-hop music had been stripped away, and rap music had emerged. Rap was a force in the 1980s, with Run-DMC and LL Cool J spreading the Bronx-born sound from Brooklyn to Beverly Hills, but few would have expected performers such as MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice to make rap music a central force in pop radio. By the 1990s the authentic voice of ghetto youth had become mindless jingles with polished beats that suburban teenagers nationwide could dance to at school dances. Rap made its way into movies and television commercials. Rapping had left the ghetto, and lost touch with its roots.
West Coast Gangsta Rap.
At the beginning of the 1990s some performers decided to take rap back to the impoverished streets from which it emerged. Street credibility became an essential part of rap music. Taking their cues from early hard-core artists such as Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions, West Coast artists such as former N.W.A. members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube tried to convey the violence of living in the ghetto through a new style called gangsta rap, which—unlike...
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The Death of Jazz?
Jazz is rumored to have died in the 1990s, but in fact, jazz earned wider recognition, attained greater respectability, and attracted larger audiences than ever before. The iconography of jazz was more fashionable and more prevalent than when jazz was new, vigorous, and innovative. Glossy magazine advertisements for liquor, cigars, luxury automobiles, and other amenities of the "good life" often depicted a soulful saxophonist, trumpeter, or vocalist. With eyes shut tight and perspiration glistening on their foreheads, these jazz performers offered representations of the intensity, pleasure, and sophistication with which companies wished to associate their products. Yet, palpable feelings of unease counterbalanced the popularity of jazz. Throughout the 1990s, jazz aficionados found ample reason to sit on the ground and tell sad stories about the death of kings (and queens). The passing of Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Gerry Mulligan, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, and Sarah Vaughan marked the end of an era on the American jazz scene. Of those giants who remained, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, formerly a member of the Basie Orchestra, were in their eighties. Pianist Oscar Peterson was in his seventies and still performing despite the effects of a stroke. Critics began to wonder aloud whether...
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Music: Latino Resurgence
One big reason for the renewed popularity of the Latin sound in music during the 1990s was Ricky Martin, who impressed even jaded Hollywood attendees at the 1999 Grammy Awards with his hip-hop rendition of "The Cup of Life." Formerly one of the teen vocalists in 1980s group Menudo, Martin made the most of his handsome Latin looks and his considerable vocal prowess during the late 1990s. His album Ricky Martin hit number one on the album charts in May 1999. In an August 1999 Roiling Stone interview, he explained the basis for his musical sound: "I said, Wait a minute. Keep it simple. You were born in Puerto Rico, and you're a Latin—even though the first stuff you listened to was Journey, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Boston—so let's play with it a little, not be stereotypical." Another Latin artist with broad demographic appeal is Jennifer Lopez, who got her start as the star of Selena (1997), a movie about a young Taguan singer. Lopez's sex appeal, dance moves, and singing ability served her well in the recording business. Her single "If You Had My Love" made the Billboard Hot 100.
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Music: Pop Trends
The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll noted in 1992 that "As more women plug in electric guitars and bash away at drum kits, they are empowered, articulating a voice that before had gone unheard. And what they have to say might just make a difference—and make it to Number One/' While Madonna's notoriety may have waned by the end of the 1990s, by then her fifteen-year career as "pop music chameleon" and sometime movie star had made her a household word. Madonna managed to stay on top by beating the system at its own game. In 1990 she beat MTV by turning its rejection of a Madonna video into big bucks for herself. In 1992 her book Sex, which showed her in various states of undress with members of both sexes, grossed more than $25 million the first week it was in bookstores but also earned her a lot of negative publicity. Madonna explained, "If you read the text, it was completely tongue in cheek. Unfortunately, my sense of humor was not something that a mainstream audience picks up. For me all it did was expose our society's hangups about sexuality. Yes I took a beating, and yes, a lot of the things that were said were hurtful and unfair.… But there are no mistakes. It was a great learning experience." The book was intended to advertise her seventh album, Erotica, which sold more than two million copies. That same year she signed a deal...
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Music: Rhythm & Blues
R & B Balladeer.
Producer, songwriter, and performer Babyface (Kenneth Edmonds) was the R & Bsuccess story of the 1990s. He and Antonio "L.A" Reid, his partner in LaFace Records, won the 1992 Grammy for Producer of the Year, and they shared the Best R & B Song Grammy with Daryl Simmons for the Boyz II Men single "End of the Road" (1992). Later that year they produced Whitney Houston's soundtrack album for The Bodyguard, which won the Grammy for the Album of the Year. In 1994 Babyface wrote the Boyz II Men single "111 Make Love to You," which won the Grammy for Best R & BSong, and recorded "When Can I See You," which earned him a Grammy for Best Male R & BVocal Performance. Three more Grammys for Producer of the Year followed (1995, 1996, and 1997). In 1996 Houston's "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)," written by Babyface, won the Grammy for Best R & BSong, and the following year Eric Clapton's single "Change the World," produced by Babyface, won Record of the Year.
R & B for Women.
During the same decade Babyface also wrote songs for Madonna, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, TLC, Tevin Campbell, Gladys Knight, Bobby Brown, and Bell Biv Devoe—and recorded four albums of his own. Perhaps best known for his movie soundtrack for Waiting to Exhale (1995), he was particularly...
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Theater: Commercializing Broadway
The Disney Invasion.
Two of the biggest musicals on Broadway during the 1990s were Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, adaptations of Disney animated motion pictures, prompting some theater lovers to predict the beginning of the end for the Great White Way. To market the shows Disney employed the same techniques it used to
Following the success of Beauty and the Beast, which opened in 1994 and succeeded despite tepid reviews, Disney launched The Lion King in 1997, and even skeptics took notice....
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While money continued to be the overriding factor in what constituted Broadway "success," ensuring the domination of musicals, an eclectic mix of notable new dramatic works found their audiences. John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation, a demonstration of physical closeness and psychological isolation, represented the best Broadway had to offer in the 1990s. Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter exemplified how a political whispering campaign ruined the chances of a woman from a prominent family awaiting Senate confirmation as surgeon general. August Wilson continued his look at the black experience in America with Two Trains Running, set in a Pittsburgh luncheonette in 1969. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1991, Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers focused on a mildly retarded woman who planned to marry a similarly handicapped usher whom she has met a few times at a local movie theater. One critic responded to the play by commenting, "Simon's terrain is the border country between laughter and tears." Last Night of Ballyhoo, a romantic comedy about two women preparing for a major social event, the 1939 premiere of Gone With the Wind in Atlanta, earned playwright Alfred Uhry the 1997 Tony for Best Play. The winner of that award in 1998, Yasmina Reza's Art was a comedy of manners that took a humorous...
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Musicals dominated Broadway in the 1990s as long-running British imports continued to draw audiences. In 1997 Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, which opened in 1982 and finally closed in 2000, became the longest running production in Broadway history, breaking the record set by A Chorus Line. Webber's Phantom of the Opera, which opened in 1988, continued to draw full houses, while his Les Misérables, which opened in 1987, closed down for a short time in 1997 for retuning and then reopened. Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's Miss Saigon opened in 1991 and was still running in 2000. These imports were all guided by the British whiz-kid producer Cameron Macintosh.
Musicals that became established as important Broadway "brand names" then toured nationwide. At one time in the 1990s there were at least three national companies of Cats, Les Misérables, and Phantom of the Opera. While Phantom of the Opera, for example, could gross about $700,000 a week on Broadway in the 1,600-seat Imperial Theatre, on the road it could play in much larger theaters, such as those in Buffalo and Tempe, Arizona, and gross more than $1.2 million per week.
Revivals of classic American musicals from earlier decades...
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Grisham, John 1955-
By far the best-selling author of the 1990s, John Grisham is perhaps, as his former agent Jay Garon declared, "the most successful author in the history of the book-publishing business."
Grisham did not set out to become a writer. Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, he was the son of a construction worker who continually moved his family around the Deep South. Grisham earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi and established a modest practice in Southaven, Mississippi, a town of twenty-five thousand just across the state line from Tennessee. After spending ten years practicing criminal and personal-injury law, Grisham admitted that his career "was not very fulfilling. I was a street lawyer, one of a thousand in a profession that was and is terribly overcrowded. Competition was fierce; ethics [were] often compromised; and I could never bring myself to advertise." His metamorphosis into a best-selling author began unexpectedly as he sat in the De Soto County Court House in Hernando, Mississippi, listening to the testimony of a twelve-year-old...
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Marsalis, Wyntonm 1962-
Image Pop-UpWynton Marsalis
A Life in Music.
The second of six sons born to Ellis and Dolores Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis cannot recall a time when music was unimportant to him. His father is an accomplished jazz pianist, and three of his brothers—saxophonist Branford, trombonist Delfeayo, and drummer Jason—are also jazz musicians. Wynton Marsalis began to play the trumpet seriously in 1974, at the age of twelve. While in high school, he performed with funk, jazz, and marching bands, as well as with symphony orchestras. He later attended the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City, and in 1980 he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. By 1999 Marsalis had released forty recordings and sold more than eight million records worldwide. He has earned eight Grammy Awards for jazz and classical recordings and a ninth for his contribution to an album of stories for children. In 1997 he won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his epic jazz oratorio Blood on the Fields, a musical exploration of slavery in the United States. The artistic director of the jazz program at the Lincoln Center in New York City, Marsalis...
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Morrison, Toni 1931-
Nobel Prize Winner.
When Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, she became the first American woman to receive the award since Pearl Buck in 1938, and the first African American woman ever to be so honored. In describing her work, the Nobel Committee stated; "She delves into the language itself, a language she wants to free from the fetters of race. And she addresses us with the luster of poetry."
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 and earned a master's degree in English at Cornell University in 1955. After a series of university teaching jobs, she became the Robert F. Goheen Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University in 1988. Over her long career as a writer Morrison has used poetic language in an unflinching examination of gender conflicts, race relations, and other aspects of American society, winning a National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon in 1977 and a Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1988. As she explained it, "My work requires me to think about how free I can be as an...
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Tarantino, Quentin 1963-
MOVIE DIRECTOR, SCREENWRITER
A Scorsese for the 1990s.
Quentin Tarantino burst onto the movie scene in 1992 with his shockingly violent, critically acclaimed movie Reservoir Dogs, which he directed and played a small role in, as well as writing the screenplay. He did the same for his biggest hit of the decade, Pulp Fiction (1994), which prompted some to call him the new Martin Scorsese—a moviemaker who could depict the anxieties of the 1990s as Scorsese had done in the 1970s with movies such as Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976). A few critics even went so far as to predict that Tarantino would be the "savior of American film making."
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Tarantino grew up in suburban Los Angeles, where during high school he worked part-time as an usher in a porno-graphic movie theater. After quitting school before graduation, he worked for about five years at Video Archives, which he calls "the best video store in the Los Angeles area," where he met future director Roger Avary, who later worked with him on the script for Pulp...
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People in the News
On 9 May 1996 Julie Andrews, star of Victor/Victoria, refused to be considered for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Broadway Musical because the Tony committee had not nominated the other cast members.
On 20 January 1993, poet Maya Angelou read "The Pulse of the Morning" at the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton.
In July 1998 Tina Brown resigned after six years as editor of The New Yorker. She was replaced by David Remnick, who restored the original literary emphasis of the magazine. Brown and Ron Galotti joined with Miramax Films in establishing Talk Media to publish Talk magazine (in collaboration with Hearst Magazines), produce television programming, and publish books.
In 1994 dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown performed If You Couldn't See Me with her back and face turned away from the audience, creating what critic Jack Anderson called "a sculptural object come to life."
In 1998 Garth Fagan, whose first job on Broadway was as choreographer for The Lion King, won Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Astaire Awards for his work on the show.
In 1994 photographer Felice Frankel became artist in residence and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she...
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Fiction: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Oscar Hijuelos
Drama: The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson
Poetry: The World Doesn't End, by Charles Simic
Music: Duplicates: A Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra,, by Mel Powell
Fiction: Rabbit at Rest, by John Updike
Drama: Lost in Yonkers, by Neil Simon
Poetry: Near Changes, by Mona Van Duyn
Music: Symphony, by Shulamit Ran
Fiction: A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley
Drama: The Kentucky Cycle, by Robert Schenkkan
Poetry: Selected Poems, by James Tate
Music: The Face of the Night, The Heart of the Dark, by Wayne Peterson
Fiction: A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain, by Robert Olen Butler
Drama: Angels In America: Millennium Approaches, by Tony Kushner
(The entire section is 1198 words.)
Berenice Abbott, 93, photographer, best known for her portraits of American expatriates in Paris during the 1920s and her documentary photographs of New York life during the 1930s and 1940s, 9 December 1991.
Gene Autry, 91, singer and actor, who starred in a series of musical-western movies, including Singing Cowboy (1936), Red River Valley (1936), and Rhythm in the Saddle (1938), 2 October 1998.
Pearl Bailey, 72, recording artist and actress, whose Broadway appearances included a part in House of Flowers (1954) and the lead in the all-black production of Hello, Dolly (1967) and whose screen credits include Carmen Jones (1954), St. Louis Blues (1958), and Porgy and Bess (1959), 7 August 1990.
Leonard Bernstein, 72, conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1957—1969) and composer whose best-known works were the scores for Jerome Robbins's ballet Fancy Free (1944) and the Broadway musicals Candide (1956) and West Side Story (1957), 14 October 1990.
Sonny Bono, 62, singer who was part of the pop-music duo Sonny & Cher during the late 1960s and early 1970s and then went on to become a successful restaurateur and a member of the House of Representatives, 5 January 1998.
(The entire section is 2124 words.)
Russell Baker, and others, Inventing The Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, revised edition, edited by William Zinsser (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998).
David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (And Rewards) of Artmaking (Santa Barbara, Cal.: Capra Press, 1994).
Harold Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994).
James Lincoln Collier, Jazz: The American Theme Song (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).
Louise Cowan and Os Guinness, eds., Invitation to the Classics (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998).
Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, eds., The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (New York: Random House, 1992).
Clifton Fadiman and John F. Majors, The New Lifetime Reading Plan (New York: HarperCollins, 1997).
Barbara Haskell, The American Century: Art & Culture, 1900-1950 (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with Norton, 1999).
Dave Hickey, Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy (Los Angeles: Art Issues; New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 1997).
Steven D. Kendall, New Jack Cinema: Hollywood's...
(The entire section is 253 words.)
Important Events in the Arts, 1990–1999
- Eight directors (Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg) found the Film Foundation, dedicated to protect and preserve the American motion picture history.
- The first rap record to top the U.S. singles chart is Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby."
- A judge in Florida bans the sale of 2 Live Crew's album "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" to minors.
- In February, the New York Public Library launches a major retrospective of the work of Berenice Abbott, the largest exhibit ever accorded a living photographer.
- On March 18, the largest art theft since 1911 occurs at the Gardner Museum in Boston. Among the stolen paintings, which are valued at $200 million, are five by Edgar Degas and Storm on the Sea of Galilee, the only known landscape by Rembrandt. The museum is uninsured.
- In September, President George Bush presents a silver National Medal of Arts to artist Jasper Johns for helping to make the United States a "cultural giant."
- On September 27, the Motion Picture Association of America drops its X rating and begins using an NC-17 rating for movies to which no one under seventeen can be admitted.
- In October, President Bush awards artist Andrew Wyeth...
(The entire section is 7288 words.)