Al Hirschfeld’s work represents a veritable archive of American popular culture over nine decades. To look at it is to get a remarkably fresh view of what was happening whether on stage, screen, or on a turntable, tape deck or any sort of listening device. He not only recorded cultural life of the U.S., Hirschfeld helped to define.
Eight decades into his career, Hirschfeld captured many of the essential elements of the 1990s. In the theater, he recorded the last vestige of the Golden Age on Broadway, and the start of a new chapter. In film he again drew the biggest pictures, and the biggest stars (even as he become one himself with the release of the Oscar nominated documentary, The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story, released in 1996). Television continued to provide him with ample subjects to draw, and he documented the central role many shows played in their audiences’ lives. And whether it was pop or opera, Hirschfeld recorded the sounds of the time.
This exhibition will be a series of shows that will explore each of the nine decades Hirschfeld worked in. These shows will not only examine what he drew, but how he drew by showing different approaches and styles in each decade. "Sherman, set the Wayback machine to the 1990s…and away we go!”
(L to R) Lisa Gay Hamilton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Lou Meyers, Charles Dutton, Carl Gordon, Rocky Carroll, and Tom Hollis
August Wilson’s play is the fourth play in Wilson's The Pittsburgh Cycle. Those ten plays, each set in a different decade, aim to illustrate the Black experience in the 20th century America. Hirschfeld, who had drawn all three Wilson play on Broadway at this point, saw Wilson as “part of a new Broadway during this era, depicting Americans and parts of American history that didn’t quite make it to the boards during the Cole Porter highball years.” The Pulitzer Prize winning drama tells the story of a brother and sister in 1936 Pittsburgh who are at odds over selling the family heirloom, a piano with carvings of the family’s suffering.
Perot was a billionaire businessman who became increasingly active in politics in the early 1990s. In 1992 he announced his independent candidacy for President on the Larry King Live and soon became the beneficiary of populist resentment toward establishment politicians. Perot reminded Hirschfeld “of a loving cup in some ways. His ears lend themselves like handles on a cup. His tie sums him up though—the superpatriot.” This drawing was commissioned for a comedy album that was shelved after Perot dropped out of the race in July. He rejoined the race in October and ended up winning close to twenty percent of the vote in the November election, making him the most successful third-party presidential candidate in terms of the popular vote since Theodore Roosevelt.
Tony Kushner’s two-part play is a metaphorical examination of AIDS and homosexuality in America in the 1980s, subtitled “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes”. It has been called “a turning point in the history of gay drama, the history of American drama, and of American literary culture.” The New York Times declared it was “the most thrilling American play in years.” It won the Tony for Best Play and the Pulitzer for Drama. Hirschfeld’s drawing captures the kaleidoscope of different storylines in the play which focuses on a gay couple in New York but also features historic figures like Roy Cohn and supernatural characters. The first part of the play, Millennium Approaches, premiered on Broadway in May 1993 (when this drawing first appeared), and the second part Perestroika, opened six months later.
The NBA considers Jordan “the greatest basketball player of all time." Jordan helped his team, the Chicago Bulls win the first of six NBA championships in 1991. They won the next two years, before Jordan announced his retirement to play baseball. After a two-year hiatus, he returned to the Bulls, and they won another three. Jordan led the NBA in scoring for a record 10 seasons and tied Wilt Chamberlain's record of seven consecutive scoring titles. He won just about every other award in the NBA including MVP and was also a member of the Olympic “Dream Team” that won gold in 1992. This drawing appeared in Entertainment Weekly as Jordan lent his star power to popular commercials for his Nike shoes, including one made just before this drawing that featured Bugs Bunny, which led to the hit feature film, Space Jam.
Animator Eric Goldberg famously based the Genie, the “star” of Disney’s animated Aladdin film, on Hirschfeld’s drawings, and the artists became friends. Goldberg, and and his wife Susan proposed the idea of collaborating with Hirschfeld on a short film on a day in the life of Manhattan with Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” as its soundtrack. Hirschfeld declined to do any new drawings, but he allowed them to adapt his existing work for character designs.
The Goldbergs first found resistance at Disney, but when another Disney animated film ran into trouble, the studio “found itself with an entire animation crew that had nothing to do. Since Susan and I had already done the storyboards and art direction pieces, the execs in charge finally said, ‘Okay, you can make it’ - as a stand-alone short….Thus Al became our official Artistic Consultant for the piece, happily approving (and improving) our designs.” Eventually, the film was incorporated into Fantasia 2000, introduced by Hirschfeld’s old friend and sometimes subject, Quincy Jones, who directly acknowledged Hirschfeld and Gershwin as the inspiration for the piece, considered one of the best in the film.
(clockwise from top left) Aaron Spelling, Charles Rosin, Carol Potter, James Eckhouse, Jamie Waters, Joe E. Tata, Brian Austin Green, Jennie Garth, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Jason Priestly, Tori Spelling, Luke Perry, Ian Zairing, Gabrielle Carteris, Mark Damon Espinoza, Kathleen Robertson
This mother of all teen dramas literally was on the entire 1990s, premiering in 1990 and running ten seasons. Although not initially popular, a “summer season” in 1991, when other television shows were showing reruns, garnered the Aaron Spelling produced drama a bigger audience, and it soon became a cultural phenomenon. It provided a template for the contemporary tv teen soap opera of attractive people dealing with contemporary issues, and spawned five spinoffs, including Melrose Place. This drawing was commissioned by the Aaron Spelling, the most prolific television producer in history, and then published as a limited edition print to give to cast and crew.
This piece was also published as a hand signed limited edition lithograph
(l to r) Michael Hayden, Sally Murphy, Sandra Brown, and John Marshall Sharp
This landmark revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein was imported from The Royal National Theatre in London with Nicholas Hytner directing again, this time with all American cast. The production allowed audiences to see beyond the corn-fed goodness of what many thought Rodgers and Hammerstein was all about. This production revealed a darker side to the story that deepened the emotions of the musical. It also introduced many to charm and substantial gifts of Audra McDonald who played Carrie Pipperidge (but who was not included in the drawing). Hirschfeld was lukewarm about the show, and when Dolly Haas fell asleep during the performance, his sense of irony knew it was going to be a hit, and it was.
(l to r) Daphne Rubin-Vega, Taye Diggs, Fredi Walker, Adam Pascal, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Anthony Rapp, Idina Menzel, and Jesse L. Martin, 1996
Jonathan Larson’s updated version of La Bohème, set in the squalor of the East Village under the shadow of HIV/AIDS in the early 1990s, marked a new era of Broadway musicals. Dealing with contemporary topics and set to a “rock” score, Rent was a gateway production for thousands of new fans of the American musical theatre. From its first performance off-Broadway, the show became legendary when Larson died the night before, after being interviewed by the New York Times about the coincidence that the musical was premiering exactly a century after Puccini’s opera. The show ran 12 years on Broadway, making it one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. It helped to usher in the practice of student rush tickets for shows in New York, and a song from the score, “Seasons of Love” became a pop hit, and now a standard sung at milestones such as weddings and graduations.
Joel Grey, Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwrith, and James Naughton
One of the longest running shows in Broadway history, and the longest running American musical, is this revival of a 1975 Kander and Ebb musical, originally directed by Bob Fosse, whose style is strongly imprinted on the production. New York City Center began a concert series of rarely heard American musicals in 1994, and in its second year presented this production directed by Walter Bobbie with choreography "in the style of Bob Fosse" by Ann Reinking, and with costumes by William Ivey Long. Whereas the original production seemed too cynical for audiences, by 1996, audiences had evolved and the show quickly moved to the Richard Rodgers Theater, where the original production has spent its two year run. It won six Tonys, a record at that time for a revival, and has been running ever since.
While Julia Roberts made films in the 1980s, it was in the 1990s that she became the most popular actress in America. She started the decade with a hit, Pretty Woman, a role that a slew of actresses had turned down. Over her next 17 films during the 1990s, which included such iconic hits as Sleeping with the Enemy, The Pelican Brief, My Best Friend's Wedding, and Notting Hill, she became the highest paid actress in Hollywood history. She also has been named People magazine’s “Most Beautiful Woman Alive” a record five times. She revealed she was a Hirschfeld fan in 1991 when she visited a gallery displaying his drawings while avoiding the press after leaving actor Kiefer Sutherland at the altar. Her talent agency, ICM, commissioned this drawing of their famous client several years later. Hirschfeld would do a color portrait of Roberts for the New Yorker in 2001, as well as drawing her in her Oscar-winning performance in Erin Brockovich in a composite of nominees he drew for the New York Times.
This is the fifth of Hirschfeld’s six drawings of the singer, songwriter, and actress. She had first appeared in a drawing of celebrities for People magazine in 1985, and then as one of “Seven Ladies of ASCAP” in 1986. Hirschfeld drew her in Broadway debut in David Mamet’s Speed the Plow in 1988. In the 90s, Hirschfeld drew her doing what she did best, writing and performing as she became the best-selling female recording artist of all time, the most successful solo artist in U.S. history, and the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time. He even published a lithograph of her in costume from her Blonde Ambition tour. This image was drawn while she was promoting her album, Bedtime Stories, which many hoped would soften to soften her image following the critical and commercial backlash she faced after releasing sexually explicit projects in the previous two years, but as the drawing indicates, Madonna instead chose to portray herself as unapologetic, and in the accompanying article talked about the scrutiny that female musicians faced, and addressed her critics and people who had tried to shame her for being provocative.
Stephanopolus rose to prominence as a Communications Director for the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and subsequently became White House Communications Director. He was later Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy to the President, before departing in December 1996 after Clinton won re-election. He transitioned into a political analyst for ABC News, eventually taking over as the host for the network’s Sunday morning public affairs show, This Week, as well as a co-host of Good Morning America. He served as inspiration for several fictional characters from Joe Klein’s Primary Colors to Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. This drawing, one of three commissioned, was for Tina Brown’s short-lived magazine, Talk.
Wasserstein was a playwright who specialized in detailing women’s identity crises with humor and insight. "Her heroines—intelligent and successful but also riddled with self-doubt—sought enduring love a little ambivalently, but they did not always find it, and their hard-earned sense of self-worth was often shadowed by the frustrating knowledge that American women's lives continued to be measured by their success at capturing the right man," explained the New York Times in her obituary in 2008. After the success of her Broadway debut, The Heidi Chronicles, which won both the Tony for Best Play, and the Pulitzer for Drama, the 1990s saw two of her plays, The Sisters Rosensweig and American Daughter on Broadway. She also wrote a book, Bachelor Girls in 1990, the screenplay for The Object of My Affection in 1998, and a children’s book, Pamela's First Musical, in 1999.
Agassi is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all times. While he made his debut in the late 1980s, it was in the 1990s that he became a legend, winning Wimbledon, the French Open , the Australian Open and the U.S. Open (twice) and reviving interest in the sport during the decade. Masters Cup. This drawing appeared on the cover of Agassi’s hometown magazine, Las Vegas Life after becoming the first player to win all four Grand Slam singles titles on three different surfaces (clay, grass and hard courts), and the Career Super Slam, consisting of his Grand Slam wins plus an Olympic gold medal in singles and a Year-end championship.
L to R: Lucy Liu, Peter MacNicol, Gregg Germann, Calista Flockhart, Portia De Rossi, Jane Krakowski, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Gil Bellows, Lisa Nicole Carson, and Vonda Shepard
Created by David E. Kelley, the television series starred Calista Flockhart in the title role as a lawyer working in a Boston law firm, where the lives and loves of her and the other lawyers provided the storylines. While McBeal certainly is not the face of modern feminism, as many women found McBeal annoying and demeaning to women because of her perceived flightiness and emotional instability, lack of legal knowledge, and her short skirts, the show was generally well received and hosts a star-studded soundtrack featuring Michael Jackson, Elton John, and Mariah Carey to only name a few. The show was so iconic of the period that this drawing was a double page spread cover for TV Guide.
L to R: Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Seinfeld, and Michael Richards
Looking for a show about nothing? With a truly ensemble cast, Seinfeld would pave the way for sitcoms to come, most notably, Friends. E! named the series the "Number 1 reason the '90s ruled” and the show gave us the inclusive holiday “Festivus” as well as other cultural moments such as the Soup Nazi and the Puffy Shirt. Seinfeld was so popular that when the series finale was aired in 1998, TV Guide, the bible of all things TV related, had Hirschfeld create four separate covers of the lead actors, a first for the magazine, and a great success that TV Guide would continue for fans of television shows and collectors alike. Many know that Larry David co created the series with Jerry Seinfeld and was the head writer for a majority of its run. Fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm can sometimes see the Hirschfeld drawing of creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David hanging in David’s office.
José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti were known as The Three Tenors. The group first sang together at the 1990 FIFA World Cup finale. After captivating audiences worldwide with their performance, the group was began touring at arenas and stadiums. The Three Tenors brought classical and opera music to a wider audience and influenced a generation of new “popera” artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Jackie Evancho, and Josh Groban. The Three Tenors last concert was in Columbus, Ohio in September 2003.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, & David Geffen
Dreamworks was founded in 1994 as a live-action film and animation studio after Katzenberg resigned from the Walt Disney Company. The trio was so powerful culturally, that the news of the founding made the front page of The New York Times, illustrated by this group portrait. It was Hirschfeld’s first front page drawing for the paper, and he did it on deadline as a car waited out front of his home to whisk into to the paper’s offices. In the 1990s, Dreamworks released numerous iconic 90s films including Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, Antz, and The Prince of Egypt. Soon thereafter, Dreamworks gave us everyone’s favorite swamp ogre, Shrek, in 2001.
The biggest lasting impact from the 1990’s is the personal computer and beginning of the internet. While “the internet” has been in development since early in the twentieth century, the internet as we know it today took shape in the 1990’s. America Online was the most popular online service provider and allowed users to chat with their friends through instant messaging, as well as talk with and meet new people in chat rooms. Catchphrases like “Dude, you’re getting’ a Dell!” and “You’ve got mail!” permeated mainstream culture. The rise of the internet also made research and information sharing easier and faster than ever. In fact, it’s the reason you’re able to view this show, wherever you are viewing from!