Galleria Mattia De Luca is proud to present Conrad Marca-Relli – Il Maestro Irascibile (The Irascible Master), an exhibition entirely dedicated to the Italian-American artist, a key figure of American Abstract Expressionism. After the historic exhibition at the Galleria La Tartaruga in 1957, this first Roman retrospective, organized in collaboration with the Marca-Relli Archive, will be inaugurated on Saturday, 9 October 2021, on the premises of the Palazzo Albertoni Spinola at 2 Piazza di Campitelli, Rome.
Conrad Marca-Relli, aka Corrado Marcarelli, was born in Boston on 5 June 1913 to Italian parents from the Campania region. An indomitable spirit and a tireless traveler, Marca-Relli grew up traveling continuously to Italy, making him perfectly bilingual, literally and artistically speaking. A lover of the monumentality of Rome, where he worked for several years, and of great Italian Renaissance painting, the Italian-American artist was the true classicist soul of the New York School. The birth of the Eighth Street Club and the organization of the famous 1951 Ninth Street Show is attributable to his fervent temperament. Marca-Relli, imbued not only with classical culture, but also with a certain pragmatism of American origin, undertook from the 1950s a successful and endless path of research into the collage technique. The compositional results of this research would be brought to the ultimate outcome of speaking of his art as “painting-collage”. This modus operandi emerged as a balanced combination of compositional harmony, typical of the European tradition, a spontaneity of gesture, the offspring of Rosenberg’s arena, and Action painting: raw canvases were cut with a razor blade, the strips glued together, unglued, rearranged, superimposed, layered on the support and, finally, repainted in order to harmonize the duality of “positive” and “negative” spaces. It is this primitive encounter of two opposing forces that brings to life Marca-Relli’s canvases, palimpsest collages created by an equally reasoned and “neurasthenic” gesture, a definition given by Afro Basaldella to the artist in a letter sent to his friend and colleague Toti Scialoja.
Always departing from the classical proportions of the wooden mannequin, inseparable companion of his painting, Marca-Relli created a macrocosm of seemingly abstract signs, main elements of his major artistic achievements, on display at Galleria Mattia De Luca. From plain Cityscapes with a metaphysical flavor of the early 1950s, to the enigmatic seated figures of his early collages, and up to the homage to his friend and neighbor Jackson Pollock, the exhibition traces the strong impact of Marca-Relli as a person and as an artist on the American and international scene.
You will be able to appreciate the works of the calibre of Cityscape from 1953, an oil on canvas, which was inspired by the artist’s Mexican sojourns and is a turning point for his adoption of the collage technique. There are also Seated Figures of the mid-1950s, a cornerstone of his oeuvre owing to its compositional harmony reminiscent of Cubism. Also unmissable are the 1955 masterpieces The Strategist and The Struggle, as well as his epic tribute Death of Jackson Pollock, a testament to what was a mutual influence more than a friendship. This relationship was replete with frequent confrontations (after all, how to reconcile the irascible Conrad with the despotic and childish soul of the boy from Cody), dialogues, encounters and mutual respect. You will continue your journey through the Italian-American master’s production with the harmonious turmoil of the forms in M-11-56, a work that paved the way for the artist’s New York masterpieces The Battle and The Warrior, respectively part of the permanent collections of the MET and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The canvases of the late 1950s and the early 1960s are exhibited as a logical follow-on of Marca-Relli’s artistic career, in which any anthropomorphic reference disappears to leave room for architectural compositions with a classical flavour, as in The Wall No. 2. There is no lack of alternative media with which the artist experimented throughout his entire life, as in the case of Cunard L-8-62, which reveals Marca-Relli’s great ability to absorb the stimuli deriving from Minimalism and Arte Povera. He tried out compositions which, while never losing sight of the harmony of forms, opened up to the concepts of rhythm and matter typical of the works of Donald Judd and those of the great artists of Arte Povera.
Marca-Relli, an abstract expressionist with a European approach, is not only a “bridge” between Rome and New York, but above all a master at the cusp of two worlds, Europe, and the United States.
His works are included in the following collections: Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Chicago, Art Institute; New York, MET, MoMA, Whitney Museum of American Art; San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art; Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection; Washington, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum.