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CONRAD MARCA-RELLI

b. 1913, Boston, Massachusetts
d. 2000, Parma, Italy


Conrad Marca-Relli was an early Abstract Expressionist painter who, for the majority of his life, lived and worked in New York. During the 1940's and 1950's, he was heavily involved with the avant-garde art scene in Greenwich Village. He taught at both Yale University and UC Berkeley, and in 1967 he had a solo show at The Whitney Museum of Art. Born in Boston and raised the son of Italian immigrants, Marca-Relli was by-and-large an autodidactic artist. When he was thirteen, his family moved to New York City, where Marca-Relli began to take night classes at a private art school. After graduating high school in 1930, he attended Cooper Union for a year but abandoned it to have his own studio in Greenwich Village. Like many artists active during the Great Depression, Marca-Relli worked for the WPA, during which time he met Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and John Graham. Then, during World War II, he served in the army before returning to New York where his works—transformed from the war—began to show elements of Surrealism. However it wasn't until a trip to Mexico in 1952 that Marca-Relli experienced his first major artistic breakthrough. Inspired by the interplay of shadows and sun on the adobe houses he had seen, Marca-Relli began using collaged paper to capture this trick of light. In 1953, Marca-Relli purchased a house next door to Jackson Pollock in East Hampton, NY. The two artists became close friends, and when Pollock died in his tragic car accident, it was Marca-Relli who identified his body for the police. Marca-Relli's works are housed in some of the most prestigious public collections of Modern art worldwide, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; The Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Art Institute of Chicago; and The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.