Office: M27 Carlos Hall
Todd Cronan (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2005)
My work centers around four areas of interest: artistic autonomy, chance, intentionality and class politics. These issues are explored in a range of historical moments, geographical areas, and media, from French painting, to American photography, to mid-century architecture and film. For my first book—on Henri Matisse, Henri Bergson and Paul Valéry (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2014)—the focus was on a set of pictorial, literary and philosophical dynamics in French culture from the 1890s through the 1940s. But as I also argue, those dynamics provide a framework for understanding contemporary debates about the nature of authorship, representation and meaning. Writing in opposition to a range of efforts to bypass meaning, interpretation, and intention, in favor of a putatively more direct affective connection with a work or the equal and opposite skeptical denial of connection, I show how the poles of affectivity and skepticism are designed to undermine our capacity to disagree about the world.
For my next two books I look at different media, locations, and periods, but all under an ongoing set of shared concerns. For Red Aesthetics, I address the highly politicized work of Alexander Rodchenko (photography), Bertolt Brecht (theater), and Sergei Eisenstein (film) between the wars. The aim here is understand the nature of a political art that falls under the terms of what Brecht called a "correct picture of the world" (assuming that most political critiques in the humanities offer an “incorrect” one). Chapters include an analysis of Rodchenko's photo-series as political allegory; Brecht's account of political and artistic abstraction; Brecht's analysis of how race replaced class (largely at the hands of the Frankfurt School) during World War II; and Eisenstein's vision of artistic automatism as a vision of political action.
Another book, on modern architecture in California, explores at length the work of Richard Neutra and the Office of Charles and Ray Eames (2021). In part I aim to show the long and largely pernicious hold The Bauhaus had, and continues to have, on the nature of architectural thinking in the twentieth- and twenty-first century. Neutra's work is a kind of epitome and literalization of central Bauhaus claims, but so is the work of Reyner Banham. By contrast to the Bauhaus approach, I show how other architects working in California carved out a mode of practice that pursued a wholly different, but also conflicting, set of aims. Chapters on R. M. Schindler and the Eameses describe a mode of architectural thinking that engage questions problem-solving, responsibility, an expanded notion of functionality, and (above all) that work through the essential problem of architectural use or audience in a novel way.
Other current projects include a luxury edition of Minor White's extraordinary photographic daybooks, called the Memorable Fancies (Princeton University Press, 2022); a book length study of the films of Billy Wilder (co-written with Charles Palermo); an essay on Van Gogh’s singular approach to the framing edge; and an account of racial essentialism that emerges--seemingly paradoxically--at the moment when race was redescribed as culture and ethnicity in the influential writings of Edward T. Hall, Marshall McLuhan, and Neutra. I am also a founder and editor-in-chief of nonsite.org published through Emory. I advise topics on all aspects of modernism.
Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism (Spring 2014)
“‘A last fine line against the horizon’: Van Gogh at the Edge,” in Through Vincent's Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources (2021).
“The Secrets of the Material: Contingency and Normativity in Adolf Loos,” Umění/Art (2021).
“Getting Over the Bauhaus,” Philosophical Salon (Jan. 2021).
“Oliver Cromwell Cox and the Capitalist Sources of Racism,” Jacobin (Sept. 9, 2020).
“Take It Down!: Symbolic Politics Is Just That” (with Charles Palermo), Common Dreams (July 6, 2020).
"Ambiguity, Accident, Audience: Minor White’s Photographic Theory,” Routledge Companion to Photographic Theory, ed. Jane Tormey and Mark Durden (Nov. 2019), 52-68.
"Le Corbusier, Matisse, and the Meaning of Conceptual Art," nonsite 31 (2020)
“More Neoliberal Aesthetics: Pamela M. Lee's September 11, 1973” (with Charles Palermo), nonsite.org 23 (Winter 2018)
"Class into Race: Brecht and the Problem of State Capitalism," Critical Inquiry 44, no. 1 (Autumn 2017): 54-79. (Click here for PDF)
"Between Culture and Biology: Schindler and Neutra at the Limits of Architecture," Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture, eds. Alison Clarke and Elana Shapira (Bloomsbury, 2017).
"Rodchenko's Photographic Communism," Photography and Failure: One Medium's Entanglement with Flops, Underdogs and Disappointments, ed. Kris Belden-Adams (Bloomsbury, 2017).
"Why Architecture Matters as Art as Never Before: Le Corbusier, Tony Smith and the Problem of Use," nonsite.org 21 (Summer 2017)
"Orthodoxy" (with Charles Palermo), World Picture 12 (2017)
"Does the Left Need Spinoza?," Politics, Religion & Ideology 17:1 (Jan. 2016): 90-92. Reply to Knox Peden.
Killing "Max Ernst" in Nothing but the Clouds Unchanged: Artists in World War I (Getty Research Institute, 2014)
Response to Kaja Silverman's The Miracle of Analogy, nonsite.org (Spring 2014)
"The Political Ontology of Unemployment: Why No One Need Apply" nonsite.org 10 (Fall 2013)
"'Seeing Differently' and 'Seeing Correctly': Bertolt Brecht For and Against Abstraction," Brecht Yearbook, vol. 37, ed. Theodore Rippey (Dec. 2013): 96-120
"Art and Political Consequence: Brecht and the Problem of Affect," Special issue on Bertolt Brecht, nonsite.org 10 (Fall 2013)
"On Previsualization," co-written with James Welling, in See the Light: Photography, Perception, Cognition, ed. Britt Salvesen (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013)
"Photography & Chance," entry, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, new edition, Oxford UP, 2014
"Paul Valéry," entry, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, new edition, Oxford UP, 2014
"Money is in the Eye of the Beholder," editorial, nonsite.org (Summer 2011)
"Paul Valéry's Blood Meridian, Or How the Reader became a Writer," nonsite.org 1 (February 2011)
"Merleau-Ponty, Santayana and the Paradoxes of Animal Faith," British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18:3 (2010): 487-506
"Georg Simmel's Timeless Impressionism," New German Critique 106 (2009): 83-101
"'Primordial Automatism': George Santayana's Later Aesthetics," Overheard in Seville 25 (2007): 20-27
"Looking Into Surfaces," in David D. Kim (ed.), Georg Simmel in Translation, (Cambridge Scholars Press,2006), 229-261
Translation and Introduction to Max Horkheimer, "Schopenhauer and Society," qui parle 15:1 (2004): 81-96
"Fanon Can’t Save You Now," Los Angeles Review of Books (March 22, 2021).
Review of Kinaesthetic Knowing: Aesthetics, Epistemology, Modern Design, by Zeynep Çelik Alexander, The Art Bulletin 101: 4 (2019): 154-157
"Wölfflin and the Promise of Anonymity," review of Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Early Modern Art, 100th Anniversary edition, CAA Reviews (May 11, 2018).
“One Way Cul-de-Sac: Benjamin Buchloh's Art History,” review of Formalism and Historicity, Art History 41:2 (April 2018): 392-94.
“Architects in the Hands of an Angry God: Charles and Ray Eames on Things,” Los Angeles Review of Books (May 25, 2016)
"Operation Adorno," review of The Challenge of Surrealism The Correspondence of Theodor W. Adorno and Elisabeth Lenk, Radical Philosophy 194 (Nov/Dec 2015): 50-52.
“War and Commas,” review of Hanns Eisler in Conversation with Hans Bunge, Brecht, Music and Culture, Radical Philosophy 189 (Jan./Feb. 2015): 52-55.
"The Meaning of Pain: Paul Scheerbart's Lesabéndio," Radical Philosophy 185 (May/June 2014): 64-65
"Photography at the End of Modernism," review of Aperture Magazine Anthology-The Minor White Years, 1952-1976, History of Photography (spring 2014): 204-206.
"Literally Conceptual," review of Lisa Siraganian, Modernism's Other Work. Radical Philosophy 177 (Jan./Feb. 2013): 51-54
"The Theater of Censored Poverty," Responses and reply to Cronan, "You are all proletarians," nonsite.org (Fall 2012)
"You are all proletarians," Review of Adorno and Horkheimer, Towards a New Manifesto, Radical Philosophy 174 (July/August 2012), pp. 31-33
"Radically Private and Pretty Uncoded," Review of Affect Theory Reader, Radical Philosophy 172 (March/April 2012), pp. 51-53
"Mysterious Exchange: On Susan Sidlauskas's Cézanne's Other: The Portraits of Hortense," nonsite.org 1 (February 2011)
Review Essay of Michael Fried's Menzel's Realism: Art and Embodiment in 19th Century Berlin, Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte 4 (2006): 578-92
Clement Greenberg's Late Writings, qui parle 14:2 (2004): 205-12
"Shaken Realism," Review Essay of Michael Fried, Menzel's Realism, qui parle 14:1 (2003): 123-58