As a specialist in modern and contemporary art, I have a particular interest in the ways modernism has broached questions of political, social, and economic violence over the long twentieth century. I am currently a visiting lecturer in the Department of Art History at the Ohio State University, having completed my Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley in 2017 under the supervision of Emeritus Professor T.J. Clark.
Theorists of violence often frame their subject as a state of exception at the extreme margins of the everyday, as exemplified by scenes of war, natural disaster, public unrest, or system failure. Yet it is the more pervasive, if less spectacular, pattern of violence at the center of metropolitan life—violence born of forced dispossession, mass displacement, and social segregation, which Marx calls “primitive accumulation”—that concerns my research, and which orients the argument of my current book manuscript, Traffic: Displacements of Art and Life in Early Twentieth-Century France. At issue for this project are the entwined histories of modernism and modernization from the late 1890s and the early 1930s, a period of unchecked infrastructural growth that was simultaneously, and not coincidentally, the heyday of the historical avant-gardes, spanning the excavation of the Paris Métropolitain and the advent of the first automobile-exclusive roadways, or autoroutes. That the vitality of modernism during this period owed much to the accelerated pace and extended sweep of road traffic has long been axiomatic for art history; yet for many contemporary commentators, the traffic question remained deeply vexed, and could not easily be separated from the attendant fact of social dispossession, whether the pedestrian’s loss of autonomy or the expansion of police authority and surveillance over previously unregulated spaces of everyday life. Organized around a group of cases in which the violence of infrastructural modernization came at once to preoccupy and, crucially, to trouble the making of modern art—including Camille Pissarro’s paintings of the Paris boulevards in 1897-98, Henri Matisse’s divagations between the automotive landscape and the Orientalist interior during and after World War I, Le Corbusier’s interventions in the field of traffic planning around 1922-25, culminating in his infamous Plan Voisin for Paris, and Fernand Léger’s confrontation with the nascent highway system during the worst years of the Great Depression—Traffic reveals the ‘heroic’ masters of modernism to have been deeply conflicted on the question of modernity, and uncertain of art’s position in an increasingly placeless society.
Among other projects currently underway are a manuscript that investigates the parallel histories of avant-garde painting, socialism, and feminism in France between 1895 and 1910, focusing on the dialogue between Matisse and Picasso and dealing with questions of abstraction and autonomy; and also a long essay on class, race, and spectacle in postwar America, which seeks to answer for the absence of blackness as a category in the political thought of Guy Debord.
My recent publications include an essay on two paintings by Nicole Eisenman in Nicole Eisenman: Dark Light (Vienna: Secession, 2017), an examination of Fernand Léger's wartime cubism in the Nothing But the Clouds Unchanged: Artists in World War I, ed. Gordon Hughes (Santa Monica, CA: The Getty Research Institute, 2014), an essay on digital media and faciality in the work of painter Amy Sillman, in Amy Sillman: one lump or two, ed. Helen Molesworth (Boston: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2015), and a study of Picasso's Guernica in Picasso Harlequin, 1917-1937, ed. Yve-Alain Bois (Milan: Skira, 2008).
As a visiting lecturer at Ohio State, my teaching centers on the histories of art and architecture since the late nineteenth century, with an emphasis—particularly at the graduate level—on race, class, and gender as subjects of representation.
Daniel Marcus CV