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Conrad Marca-Relli

Conrad Marca-Relli, son of Italian parents was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1913 and is considered the father of the New York abstract expressionism.

In 1930 he studied design at the Cooper Union for one year and worked for the Works Progress Administration until 1940. Conrad Marca-Relli served for the U.S. Army during World War II for four years, from 1941 to 1945. Till then, the work of Mark-Relli was characterized by his depictions of circus-themed or urban and architectural landscapes, the result of the influence of Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico.

During the latest years of the 40’s, he returned to Manhattan and took part along with other artists, most of them war veterans, the "Downtown group" whose workshop was in Greenwich Village. In 1949 this group formed the New York School, in which artists like Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg were also part of, and who dedicated its existence to explore the avant-garde of the moment. In 1948, Conrad Marca-Relli showed his work to the public for the first time in an exhibition organized by Leo Castelli called "Ninth Street Show”, considered as the first exhibition of abstract expressionism.

During the era of the 50s, Marca-Relli definitely explores abstraction and combines it with elaborated collages. It is said that Mark-Relli began working the art of collage due to lack of paint, and then discovered how to represent some light effects like the reflection in certain surfaces such as adobe. As he was investigating this technique, his works were became increasingly complex, in the use of colors, shapes and textures. In these years, Marca-Relli taught at Yale University and bought a house at the Springs, in the vicinity of East Hampton, a community that began to develop as an artist colony. Interestingly, the home of Marca-Relli was beside Pollock’s, with whom he became close friends. It would be Marca-Relli himself who identified the body of his friend to the police the day of his death.

In the 60s, Marca-Relli uses industrial vinyl to give texture to his works and shapes are outlined with painted, or real nails, emphasizing the three dimensional plasticity. In 1967 he received his first retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art.

Conrad Marca-Relli died in 2000 after living in cities like London, Paris, Ibiza and Parma.

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