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Conrad Marca-Relli

American, 1913-2000


Curating Works


Conrad Marca-Relli was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1913, and during his childhood and  youth in Europe, he received his first art lessons in Italy. In 1926, he settled in New York City  where he studied at various schools including Cooper Union. From 1935 to 1938, he was a WPA  artist with the Federal Art Project, and this job was his first opportunity to devote himself  exclusively to his artwork. It also brought him into contact with other New York modernists such  as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. From 1948 to 1949, he was again in Europe and turned to  Surrealist circus and architectural themes influenced by Giorgio de Chirico and Henri Rousseau.  In Rome, he completed his first body of important works, based on Italian Renaissance  architectural themes and circus motifs. These paintings were later exhibited in New York City at  the Niveau Gallery. Marc-Relli returned to New York where he pursued a style of controlled, sharp  edged, biomorphic shapes with urban themes. Marca-Relli went to a trip to Mexico in 1953 where  he was impressed by the contrasts between flat white adobe buildings and the black shadows on  them from the brilliant sun. To achieve a similar look, Marca-Relli developed a collage method of  sketching forms on bare canvas, cutting them out with razor blades, coating them with layers of  paint, and attaching them to a supporting canvas in a rearranged juxtaposition. Between the  attachments, he began adding paint and strips of canvas, which suggested abstract figures and  anatomical fragments. By 1960, his collages were totally nonobjective. Marca-Relli is the  collections of many museums including MoMA, Guggenheim, Smithsonian, and San Francisco  Museum of Modern Art.