Summary of Conrad Marca-Relli
Conrad Marca-Relli was a Boston-born painter and sculptor who belonged to the early generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists. Following a period of painting Surrealist inspired imagery, Marca-Relli made a critical breakthrough with large-scale collage paintings that frequently drew inspiration from the human form to create abstract compositions of interlocking curves and angles. He is considered to be one of the first artists to raise the art of collage to a status comparable with monumental painting, which paved the way for the large "combine paintings" of the Neo-Dada artists of the 1960s.
- Early in his career, Marca-Relli recognized that for abstraction to be emotionally moving, the use of psychologically affecting shapes and textures were necessary. Contours and shapes in his work were therefore based on imagined architectural themes or figure arrangements but were deliberately left ambiguous.
- Marca-Relli took a constructive approach to image making, building up surfaces by cutting out and applying shapes to canvas or metal supports. He did not seek gestural movement or uncontrolled spontaneity, but sought to create controlled, complex compositions of interlocking forms.
- Marca-Relli maintained strong links to Europe throughout his life and did not wish to break from the traditions of the "Old World" unlike many of his contemporaries. He lived and worked in France, Spain, and Italy and looked to European painters from the Renaissance, Cubism, and metaphysical movements for inspiration.
Biography of Conrad Marca-Relli
Conrad Marca-Relli was born Corrado di Marcarelli in Boston, Massachusetts to Italian immigrant parents. Marca-Relli's father was a news commentator and a journalist whose job required frequent travel, he therefore spent much of his childhood moving back and forth between the United States and Europe. He began to draw at an early age and was encouraged by his family to pursue his artistic interests, taking his first lessons during his many extended trips to Italy. There he developed a lasting feeling for the heritage of Italian art and culture and the atmosphere of European life. When he was thirteen, Marca-Relli and his parents permanently settled in New York, where Marca-Relli finished his last year of high school at night so he could dedicate his days to painting.
Important Art by Conrad Marca-Relli
This untitled painting from 1940 reveals the influence of Giorgio di Chirico on Marca-Relli's early career as a painter. This strangely unpopulated square is strongly evocative of di Chirico's enigmatic imagery inspired by the architecture and melencholy atmosphere of Turin. The archway in the background indicate the scene is an imagined European city with its tilted perspective enhancing the flatness of the picture plane.
Seated Figure won Marca-Relli the prestigious Logan Medal of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1954. The composition was produced during a period in which the artist focused almost exclusively on interpretations of single figures using layered planes of collaged canvas. In these works, Marca-Relli sought to explore abstract form using "the architecture of the human figure" as a starting point for interchanges between light and dark, positive and negative space.
The interlocking biomorphic forms in Trial represent the increasing complexity of Marca-Relli's collage technique during the 1950s. The artist has deliberately obliterated any recognizable sections of human anatomy, yet the work suggests a myriad of jostling figures. This vast composition combines an extraordinary variety of overlapping shapes, textures and contrasts to create a sense of movement that was inspired in part by Paolo Uccello's monumental battle scenes.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Conrad Marca-Relli
- Conrad Marca-RelliOur PickBy David Anfam
- Conrad Marca-RelliBy Conrad Marca-Relli
- Marca-Relli: John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, November 6th, 1979 through January 1st, 1980By Conrad Marca-Relli
- Conrad Marca-Relli: City to TownOur PickBy Phong Bui / The Brooklyn Rail / June 3, 2011
- Celebrating a Few Fertile Years in the HamptonsBy Karin Lipson / The New York Times / April 30, 2011
- Conrad Marca-Relli: The New York Years, 1945-1967By Craig Olson / The Brooklyn Rail / October 5, 2009
- Conrad Marca-Relli, Collagist and Painter, Is Dead at 87Our PickBy Michael Kimmelman / The New York Times / August 31, 2000