(1913 – 2000)
Conrad Marca-Relli graduated from Cooper Union in 1935, and began his artistic career painting cityscapes and carnival scenes in a Surrealist manner. During his service in World War II, Marca-Relli absorbed the texture, solidity and inherent formal order of the architecture of ancient and Renaissance Rome. In 1945, he returned to New York and by 1949, he was a founding member of the “Eighth Street Club,” an artists’ group whose members included Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Jack Tworkov.
In 1952, Marca-Relli visited Mexico where the effects of sunlight on adobe brick buildings had a profound impact on the development of his work. During a period of experimentation, from his rented studio in San Miguel de Allende, he discovered collage. 1 Art historian William Agee wrote, “Marca-Relli’s achievement has been to raise collage to a scale and complexity equal to that of monumental painting. Since its inception in 1912 by Picasso and Braque, collage has undergone many formal transformations, yet it has remained a corollary to painting…Marca-Relli…developed it as a complete pictorial system essentially without precedent in modern art.”2Beginning with a rough sketch on bare canvas, he pinned segments of raw canvas cut by a razor onto a supporting canvas coated with a mixture of paint and glue, often shifting the collage sections to alter the formal relationships within the composition.
Marca-Relli's first one-man show was in New York City in 1947 at Niveau Gallery, and in 1967 the Whitney Museum of Modern Art hosted a retrospective of his work. His work can be found in most major museum collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and The Art Institute, Chicago, among others.
1 Sharp, Jasper. ”Conrad Marca-Relli: The New York Years 1945-1967.” Exhibition catalog, (Knoedler & Company: New York, 2009) p 10.
2 Agee, William C., ‘Marca-Relli.’ Exhibition catalog, Whitney Museum of American Art: New York, 1967, p.9.