World-Class Art

Thomas Hoving Picks a Collection of American Artists Who May Be the Picassos and Monets of the 21st Century

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Rez Williams. He paints out of West Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard, but he's about as far from one of those sticky-sweet chroniclers of island life and times as one can get. His scenes of the Vineyard smash into your eyes like crescendos. The spaces warp and move. The colors clash and rebound. You gaze at something like "Gay Head Light" for a few seconds and you get out of breath. Williams is light-years beyond the Vineyard, yet no one has distilled it better. Rez Williams, P.O. Box 3143, West Tisbury, Massachusetts 02575, phone (508) 693-1253
Matthew Barney. The artist is one of the most bewildering, inchoate, agonizingly frustrating image-makers in the world today. As the art writer Jerry Saltz has so aptly pointed out, Barney is a kind of "athlete-aesthete who crafts psychosexual works" of the most gripping quality. Writes Saltz: "It's as if Rube Goldberg, Charles Atlas, Paul Bunyan, Audie Murphy and the Marquis de Sade teamed up to make art." Barbara Gladstone Gallery, 99 Greene Street, New York, New York 10012, fax 212-966-9310
Catherine Opie. She creates photographs of the most arresting variety--troubling, dark, yet gifted images of flesh engraved and wounded, such as her self-portraits in the guise of afflicted and outcast members of American society who don't seem to care in the least. Her works are arresting and curiously universal for all their arcane weirdness. Stuart Regen Gallery, Inc., 629 North Almont Drive, Los Angeles, California 90069, phone (310) 276-5424, fax (310) 276-7430
Gary Simmons. One of the most important artistic forms of this decade is social and political protest and commentary. Simmons' work stands out as profoundly fierce and moving, with installations such as the one in the Whitney 1993 biennial in which eight pairs of gold-plated sneakers were placed in a police lineup wall, or a 1994 work titled "Step in the Arena (The Essentialist Trap)," which represents a whitewashed boxing ring with seven pairs of black wing-tip shoes hanging on the ropes and, on the canvas, a chalked-in series of steps. Simmons can be lyrical, too, as his "erasure drawings" such as the one on page 222, "Wall Drawing," 1992, so admirably demonstrates. Metro Pictures, 150 Greene Street, New York, New York 10012, fax (212) 219-2027
Fred Wilson. He uses casts of Greek classical and ancient Egyptian sculpture in mock museum installations to make the point that Western civilization is truly a combined African and European ancestry. But the objects he brings together are striking and evocative on their own, and his installations are indelible. Metro Pictures
Millie Wilson. Using the oddest materials, this artist is becoming justifiably famous for her arresting visions of mankind. Some of her work sets our imaginations to running double-time, such as her striking image entitled, "Daytona Death Angel," 1994, (not pictured) made of synthetic hair, wood and chrome. Jose Freire Fine Art, 130 Prince Street, New York, New York 10012, phone (212) 941-8611, fax (212) 941-7232
Chris Finley. The artist's sculptures--or installations--appear on the surface to be pure witticisms--amusing assemblies of mundane objects such as white metal kitchen stools, pet bowls, take-out food containers. But with the passage of time the pieces somehow transform themselves into architectural enterprises of far greater beauty and significance than those in some of the most renowned cities of the world. Acme Gallery, 1800-B Berkeley Street, Santa Monica, California 90404, fax (310) 264-5820
Will the reputations of all these artists burgeon? Live forever? And in two generations will they be preeminent in art history? Will their works increase in value ten times, a hundred times?
But you must know what Alfred Barr would always say: If one out of 10 lasted a generation, he felt he had chosen particularly well.
Thomas Hoving is former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and former editor-in-chief of Connoisseur magazine.
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