Terry Riley vs. Nicolai Ouroussoff


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Feb 9, 05 2:54 pm

i thought ouroussoff's crit was right on if the exhibition is as he describes. i wouldn't pay $20 to go see what i can see in an high end furniture store.

Feb 9, 05 3:21 pm  · 

Nice 60 Minutesesque document gathering here, who knew archinect could "make news" as Chris Matthews would say.

However are we sure they are not forged? ;)

Feb 9, 05 3:36 pm  · 

look, it is true. the day that moma passed on Rem, it entombed and enshrined itself. so terry riley is captaining a ship that long ago ran aground and he is crying about it. i give mr. ouroussoff high fives up and down for calling a spade a spade and provoking the architectural world to ask for better.

c'mon now. if you're a critic and you can't take criticism, get out of the game.

Feb 9, 05 4:17 pm  · 
R.A. Rudolph

I don't know, didn't read this article but personally I think Nicolai's critiques are generally long-winded, poorly written, uninteresting and even unreadable at times. I could never read him in the LATimes, and was shocked they chose him for the NYT. Just seems like a poncy brown-noser (and I've seen him in action as well with an "unnamed architect").

Feb 9, 05 4:41 pm  · 

Not a big Nicolai fan either. But this time he's spot on. Read:

Feb 9, 05 4:50 pm  · 

thought the article was overstated, unless it was meant as a provocation of exactly this kind of response (in which case: bravo!). while it's great to be intellectually and viscerally challenged by an exhibit, who really expects that every time? moma's had a lot on its mind.

riley's letter: a little catty? "blatantly...If we are to expect more of the same...I have to tell you...I trust...I suggest that we..." extreme haughtiness.

this little dust-up makes them both look bad.

Feb 9, 05 4:51 pm  · 


Feb 9, 05 4:56 pm  · 

Deja vu? Terry's fatuous tantrum has distinct echoes of the grotesque later years of Nic's predecessor at the Grey Lady, Herbert Duschamp.

Feb 9, 05 5:34 pm  · 

N.O goes on to, 'hang the show himself'. he is most likely right on. perhaps he would curate a better show if he was given the chance. he is, as well, reactionary to architectural commodity scene. snap at the show is good. not everything staged with this big producers is interesting or has great educational value, but advocating further consumerism, which is N.O's counter-point. it is an article about the turf wars, also. and maybe N.O has some other agenda carier wise.
at the end, how an avarage museum visitor would know about high adjacency between grg lynn and some others?

seems like T.R wants to finish this ambitious guy..

Feb 9, 05 5:54 pm  · 

just for reference... the NO critique:
Where MoMA Has Lost Its Edge

Published: February 4, 2005

PHILIP JOHNSON died last week without ever having seen Yoshio Taniguchi's completed expansion of the Museum of Modern Art. Confined to his Connecticut estate, he was too frail to travel to the museum's opening event and had stopped offering ideas to the Modern's curators.

But the architect's presence still haunts the museum. Whatever you thought of Johnson's aesthetic agenda or impish charm, he never lacked a strong point of view. And it is hard to imagine that Johnson, the founding director of the Modern's department of architecture and design, would have been much impressed by the reinstallation of the department's main galleries more than 60 years after he organized its inaugural show in the museum's old Fifth Avenue home.

Under his guidance, the department's early exhibitions on architecture and industrial design not only marked significant shifts in architectural thought, but also made the museum the nation's most powerful platform for changing the way Americans viewed design. That role continued through the 1960's and the museum's publication of Robert Venturi's "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture," the first sign that cracks were appearing in the Modernist narrative.

The new installation, by comparison, is unlikely to burn a hole in our memories. Nor is it likely to shake up our view of the world. Tucked away on the third floor of Mr. Taniguchi's elegant monument to classical Modernism, it is a surprisingly lifeless mix of design objects, often-superb drawings and architectural models. The bulk of the installation feels haphazard and lackluster; when it strives for a little originality, it stumbles.

Even more deflating is the general sense of complacency. Whether because of a loss of imagination or the distraction of a high-profile $858 million building project, the department was already losing momentum before the museum closed for renovation five years ago. The reopening of the architecture and design galleries was an opportunity to reclaim, even trumpet, the museum's role in shaping the conversation about architecture. Instead, the department has limited itself to passively documenting current architectural trends.

The biggest disappointment is the south gallery, which focuses on the museum's collection of architectural drawings and models. A scaled-down version of the Modern's "Envisioning Architecture" show, which first traveled to Frankfurt in 2003, it includes a handful of well-known masterworks by early Modernists like Erich Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier - including the famous charcoal and graphite drawing of Mies's soaring 1921 Friedrichstrasse skyscraper proposal in Berlin, which looks as fresh today as any of the drawings in the collection.

From there, the show skips along most of the fashionable architectural movements of the ensuing decades, putting particular emphasis on the theoretical works of the 1960's and 70's, like Ron Herron's 1966 "Walking City," which evokes a gigantic mechanized beast, and Superstudio's 1969 Continuous Monument project, an infinite building of mirrored glass.

That sequence is punctuated by designs from the profession's current big guns, including a stunning painting of the dynamic, splintered forms of the Peak, an unbuilt 1983 design for a country club in Hong Kong by Zaha Hadid of London.

Over all, the drawings are first rate, but the point is lost. The layout rarely veers from a mainstream view of architectural history, or serves up the kind of surprises that might have breathed life into the show. You get the impression that the curators were more intent on being inclusive than on telling a compelling story.

In its unapologetic worship of machines, a 1992 airbrush and ink drawing by Neil Denari of Los Angeles, for example, seems almost a reactionary echo of 1960's fantasies by Archigram, but the installation never nods to that. Instead, the drawing hangs near a small sketch by Frank Gehry and another by Greg Lynn, one of the profession's most promising young talents. The drawings have no meaningful relationship to each other that I could discern, other than the fact that all three architects are based in Los Angeles.

The few unexpected moments, on the other hand, are a bit baffling. It's hard to imagine what two large watercolor, graphite and ink drawings by Lauretta Vinciarelli are doing there. The compositions, layers of luminous orange and brown planes, seem out of place and fail to measure up to the other work. And they hint at a conversation between art and architecture that is never really explored. (By contrast, check out the second-floor contemporary art galleries, where a series of drawings for Rem Koolhaas's "Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture," a theoretical work from 1972, and a 1973 film of a performance piece by Joan Jonas capture that era's distrust of an older generation's visions of utopia.)

The design galleries are not much better, although there's a treat or two: to get there, for example, you cross a narrow bridge past the sprightly buglike form of the 1945 Bell-47D1 helicopter, one of the most beloved objects in the old Modern. And a lovely narrow space with an enormous window overlooking the sculpture garden gives you the sensation that you are floating in Midtown Manhattan. That space is dominated by the luscious red enamel body of the Modern's 1943 Cisitalia 202 GT sports car; nearby is the recently acquired flip-panel departure board from the Milan airport and a sensuously curved titanium-edged airplane blade by General Electric.

These objects, all masterpieces of industrial design, support a vision that could have been conjured by an old hard-core Modernist but updated for the computer age. Deftly arranged, these works have just enough room to breathe; you see them with a clarity that is sharpened by their context, just as you would expect in a thoughtful museum exhibit.

But the moment doesn't last. The rest of the design galleries are so cluttered with trinkets that they soon become exhausting. A cluster of objects - among them Fernando and Humberto Campana's 1993 knotted red-cord armchair, Shiro Kuramata's transparent 1988 acrylic chair, a rubber wet suit and a plastic wastepaper basket - are planted on an oval plastic display platform in the middle of a room. There's more: a Swatch watch, a 1992 Ingo Maurer lamp with goose feather wings, an Apple keyboard, a robotic dog, and classics like a Marcel Breuer chair, a 1950's Charles and Ray Eames storage unit and an inflatable armchair from the 1960's.

The feel is that of a high-end furniture and design showroom like the MoMA Design Store itself across the street, where many of these objects are for sale. Taking its cue from the retail world, the objects in the installation are tightly packed together, as if the aim was to offer consumers a wealth of choices rather than draw them into an atmosphere of contemplation. It's as if you have entered a storehouse for the irredeemably trendy.

It's hardly surprising. To cater to status-conscious consumers, stores like MoMA Design, Vitra or Moss have long designed their showrooms to resemble museum spaces. Blurring the boundaries between art and commerce helps justify a high price tag. Unfortunately, it has also had the effect of giving museum exhibitions the feel of shop displays. (Although Moss and Vitra allow you to browse without paying a $20 admission.)

If the gallery installations are flawed, however, they are also a symptom of a deeper problem at the Modern: its lack of leadership. Under Terence Riley, the department created a number of memorable shows in the 1990's, among them important retrospectives of the works of the New York-based Bernard Tschumi and the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, and the "Un-Private House" show.

Since then, the department seems to have settled into inertia. It produced an exhaustively researched retrospective of Mies's Berlin works in 2001 and the more recent "Tall Buildings" show at MoMA QNS. But neither show generated the energy of Mr. Riley's earlier efforts or focused on the corners of the profession where new ideas tend to flourish. With the exception of its current self-serving exhibition of Mr. Taniguchi's museum designs, for example, the department has not organized a major show on the work of a rising talent since the Koolhaas show in 1994.

Worse, that torpor has coincided with a decline in the quality of architectural exhibitions in general. The popularity of high-end architecture and design has led to a boom in second-rate shows organized by curators with little scholarly background or critical detachment. Even at serious museums, such exhibitions are often sloppy and superficial. Typical is the recent "Glamour" show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - a checklist of vintage clothes and postwar and contemporary architectural landmarks that could have been more intelligently thrown together by the editors of Vogue.

It would be impossible today, of course, to recapture the sense of mission that fueled the old Modern. And why would we try? Johnson was born into a world that still believed in the notion of revolutionary progress, aesthetic or otherwise. It was that faith that spurred him to promote everything from the International Style to Postmodernism with the zeal of a true believer. Architecture, thankfully, no longer has a dominant center - the age of dogmas and manifestos is gone.

Even so, Johnson's best shows always managed to convey a sense of urgency. The Modern has lost that sense of purpose. Surely curators know that "good taste" is not enough to give coherence to an all-important installation, let alone to turn an audience on. The museum needs to find a bolder mission than defining who or what constitutes the mainstream.

Feb 9, 05 11:54 pm  · 

such drama queens!!!!!

Feb 10, 05 1:34 am  · 

Terry is objecting more to the tone of the article than its critique. He does say that Nicolai's critique is worthy of consideration. What he is objecting to is Nicolai's use of the occasion of Philip Johnson's death to criticize Terry for not being enough like Philip. In that sense I agree with Terry; I'm not sure where Nicolai is going with that comparison.

Nicolai's article sounds like he expected some groundbreaking show to occupy the A+D galleries for the occasion of the re-opening. Instead there is a boring survey show. So what. Who knows how many boring shows were proffered under Philip Jonson's tenure.

Perhaps Terry should invite Nicolai to guest-curate a show instead of inviting him to a public debate.

Feb 10, 05 4:00 am  · 



BETTER YET. Perhaps Terry should invite Nicolai OVER TO A CANDLE LIT DINNER WITH W(H)INE?

Feb 10, 05 8:59 am  · 


Feb 10, 05 10:53 am  · 

Oh, behaaaaaaaaaave...

Feb 10, 05 1:29 pm  · 

"...The museum needs to find a bolder mission than defining who or what constitutes the mainstream." By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF
Does the common sence needs more?

Feb 10, 05 2:14 pm  · 
R.A. Rudolph

...elegant ...lifeless ...often-superb...haphazard and lackluster...
famous ...fresh ...fashionable ...punctuated...stunning...dynamic...compelling...unapologetic ...reactionary ...unexpected ...baffling... luminous ...sprightly buglike ...enormous ...luscious ...sensuously
...Deftly...exhaustively ...self-serving

Feb 10, 05 2:44 pm  · 

"I think Nicolai's critiques are generally long-winded, poorly written, uninteresting and even unreadable at times"
I get you meaning.Just vomit those words out,like you did. and the rest should be coherent but still pestilentiall.Few of them i couldn't find even in a dictionary

Feb 10, 05 3:04 pm  · 

OK! through their actions, neither of them have shown themselves to be above reproach. if those two children wont behave then I will have to settle their score:




Feb 10, 05 4:44 pm  · 

"No construction of history comes without it's cracks."

Feb 11, 05 12:34 pm  · 

no deconstruction of cracks comes without its history--heard these two boys were close, back in the day. at least that's what herbert said.

Feb 11, 05 2:51 pm  · 

and what's dr. no got against SFMOMA? ad hominem ain't criticism. joe rosa should get in the fray!!

Feb 11, 05 3:05 pm  · 

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