Conrad Marca-relli was born in 1913 from Italian parents in Boston. He moved to New York in the late 1920s where he was soon involved in the art scene. To ease the English pronunciation, he changed his name to Conrad Marca-Relli in the early 1950s. Despite being a passionate traveler, including significant journeys to Mexico and Europe, Marca-Relli maintained a deep connection with his native country and its rich traditions, particularly the Italian Renaissance.
After serving in the military during World War II, Marca-Relli became a member of the “Downtown Group,” a collective of artists based in Greenwich Village, a vibrant neighborhood in lower Manhattan. His first solo exhibition took place in New York City at the Niveau Gallery in 1947. Marca-Relli played a pivotal role in the New York School of Abstract Expressionism and was involved in the movement from its inception. In 1949, he co-founded the Eighth Street Club alongside Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning, organizing the first exhibition dedicated to Abstract Expressionism.
In 1951, Marca-Relli participated in the landmark Ninth Street Show, showcasing his work alongside renowned artists such as Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Robert Motherwell, Barnet Newman, Hans Hoffman, Franz Kline, and gallerist Leo Castelli. This influential exhibition marked the emergence of the uniquely American artistic movement known as Action Painting, characterized by revolutionary painting techniques.
Marca-Relli’s preferred technique was collage, allowing him to continuously evolve his works. He layered paper and canvas in his early years and transitioned to incorporating metal plates in the 1960s. Through collage, he skillfully delineated volumes and created large canvases where figuration remained prominent. Marca-Relli is often hailed as a bridge between European and American cultures, fusing the dramatic effects of Abstract Expressionism with the sense of compositional harmony found in Italian Renaissance painting.
His artistic prowess swiftly gained international recognition, and his artworks are now showcased in prestigious collections worldwide. In 1997, Marca-Relli relocated to Parma, Italy, where he passed away in 2000.