Decades: The 1990s
Donald B. Anderson Gallery
January 6 – July 7, 2024
It is necessary to occasionally look back to better understand where we are now. Decades: The 1990s is the final installment of the Roswell Museum’s series of exhibitions looking at artistic output on a ten-year basis reflecting on how artists grappled with changing times. All works presented in this exhibition are from the museum’s permanent collection. On display are works of art created during the 1990s entering the museum’s collection from 1990 to 2023. At least one work is on display created within each of the 10 years comprising the decade. Works of art by 55 artists are exhibited. Of the artists in the show, 12 have participated in the Roswell Artist-in-Residence (RAiR) program between 1975 and 2012. The artists represented in the exhibition are (RAiR artists are indicated with a *) Valerie Arber, Stuart Arends*, Roger Asay, Bill Bomar, Mala Breuer*, Ann Bromberg, Richard Buswell, Dana Chodzko, Donna Ciaciarella, Sue Coe, John Connell, Marilyn Conway, Tom Cosgrove, Rebecca Davis*, Bob DeBris, Eddie Dominguez*, Gussie DuJardin*, Cindy Ewing, Laurel Farrin*, Gloria Graham, Marcella Hackbardt, Christina Hall-Strauss, Ernest Martin Hennings, Colette Hosmer, Inger Jirby, Yoshiko Kanai*, Catherine Kerr Hoch, Zara Kriegstein, Ted Kuykendall*, Sandra Lerner, Steve Levin*, Beverly Magennis*, Eluid Martinez, Dave McGary, Deloss McGraw, Deann Melton, Danielle Rae Miller, Susan Moldenhauer, Dana Newmann, Robert Owen, Jeanette Pasin Sloan, Don Reitz, Kjersti Remen, Ken Saville, Sam Scott, Phyllis Sloane, Monika Steinhoff, Nancy Sutor, Bernadette Vigil, Jim Waid, James Watkins, Jerry West*, Steve White, Jerry Williams*, and Melissa Zink.
In 1991, the Roswell Museum embarked upon a strategic planning process that resulted in the first comprehensive five-year plan, Towards Excellence and a New Vitality. Setting a course for leadership and vision, the Museum has continuously revised its strategic plan since the 1990s. The most recent revision was approved by the Board of Trustees in November 2023. It outlines five goals the Museum will focus on through 2028:
- Grow community connections, relevance, and impact;
- Enable the Museum’s long-term stability and increased organizational capacity;
- Develop and implement sustainable marketing strategies for improved visibility;
- Ensure Planetarium resources are maximized and sustainable; and
- Cultivate opportunities for deeper connections with the collection and exhibitions.
The 1990s also saw a number of administrative and operational changes at the Museum. This is when a voicemail system was first adopted and an official website was created. In 1996, a $1.1 million capital campaign was launched by the Roswell Museum and Art Center Foundation to build the Patricia Lubben Bassett Art Education Center. It opened in 1998 and included a new entrance to the Museum, the Spring River Gallery, education offices, a ceramics studio, classrooms, a library, and an auditorium. These continue to be vital facilities for the Museum to this day. As a part of the Museum’s 2023-2024 renovation, the museum store will move to the Spring River Gallery space. Also in the late 1990s, Bill Ebie retired after 27 years as Director of the Roswell Museum. In late 2023, Ebie generously donated a number of artworks to the Museum that he acquired during his time in Roswell.
As an era, the decade was dominated by rapid advances in science and technology, economic growth in wealthy countries, and shocking violence in poorer countries around the world. Major technological advances in the 1990s include the development of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and broad public access to the internet. Along with access to the World Wide Web, the digital divide emerged simultaneously. Many individuals, particularly those not privileged to live in wealthy countries, could not afford a computer and/or didn’t have information on how to operate one, a problem that continues even to today. The 1990s ended with the Y2K panic that computers many had come to rely on would revert to 1900 instead of 2000.
The 1990s, as a decade, can be thought of as a short period of time bookended by two major events with global economic and political implications: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 along with the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Newly independent countries emerging out of the Soviet Union, such as Ukraine, struggled economically as they grappled with the changes inherent in a capitalist system designed to benefit countries like the United States that already had strong economies. In 1999, Russian president Boris Yeltsin resigned and was succeeded by Vladimir Putin, who continues in that position today. Many multi-nation organizations focused on capitalist economics and free trade emerged in the 1990s, including the European Union; the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico, and the United States; and the World Trade Organization.
Horrific violence that played out worldwide in the 1990s included the Hutu genocide of the Tutsis during the Rwandan Civil War, two wars in the Russian republic of Chechnya, the first Gulf War in the Middle East that the United States referred to as Operation Desert Storm (the world’s first televised war), the Zapatista Uprising in Mexico as an armed protest against NAFTA, and multiple conflicts in Southeast Europe, including genocide in Bosnia. While the Good Friday Agreement in the late 1990s saw an end to 30 years of violence between the Irish Republican Army and the United Kingdom, the Oslo Accords failed to bring meaningful peace to the Israel-Palestine conflict that continues today. Apartheid finally ended in South Africa in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as president four years after he was released from three decades of imprisonment.
After four police officers were acquitted by an all-white jury in the police brutality case involving the beating of a Black man, Rodney King, intense public outrage led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots in which 53 people were killed along with thousands of property fires. The brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming galvanized a new chapter of the LGBT rights movement and campaign against homophobia. In a pre-9/11 era, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing shattered the assumption that terrorism is only perpetrated against the United States by foreigners. The Columbine High School shooting in 1999 has broadly been credited as the beginning of the American gun violence epidemic still haunting us today. The 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas was celebrated by some Americans and protested by others, particularly Indigenous groups still grappling with the lingering impacts of colonialism, genocide, and slavery stemming from the arrival of Columbus and other Europeans.
Bill Clinton, president of the United States for most of the 1990s, was an overwhelmingly popular head of state until he was mired in controversy over lying about a sexual relationship with an intern, Monica Lewinsky. Another media spectacle during the decade was the televised murder trial of former athlete O.J. Simpson. While HIV continued from the 1980s to decimate populations worldwide, public education about safe sex contributed to the decrease of its spread in Western nations. Climate change emerged as a major concern in the 1990s, a decade that saw the Earth Summit in Brazil resulting in many countries signing the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as nonprofit organizations like Greenpeace that brought public attention to environmental concerns through both legal and illegal means.
Many of the dilemmas faced in the 1990s continue to challenge us today. Then, as now, artists’ perspectives on these issues from personal to political are unique to their own views and represent a diversity of experiences. In subject matter, style, and form the works included in Decades: The 1990s show a compelling range of approaches through which artists sought to reflect on what was happening around them. Three decades later, these artists’ works continue to invite us to reflect not only on the 1990s, but also developments since then and our own present-day life experiences.
Special thanks is owed to Ray Graham for his generous donation of artworks in 2023. Sixteen of the works on display (30% of the exhibition) were given by Graham to the Roswell Museum last year. Thanks is also owed to Agustín Pozo Gálvez for his translation of text about the exhibition to Spanish.