Spotlight: How the ‘Irascibile’ Abstract Expressionist Conrad Marca-Relli Imbued Renaissance Principles Into His Collaged Canvases

“Il Maestro Irascibile” is currently on view at Rome's Mattia De Luca gallery.

Installation view
Installation view "Conrad Marca-Relli: Il Maestro Irascibile" 2021. Courtesy of the Archivio Marca-Relli. Photograph by Daniele Molajoli.

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What You Need to Know: This exhibition “Il Maestro Irascibile” (The Irascible  Master) at Rome’s Galleria Mattia De Luca showcases the work of Italian-American Conrad Marca-Relli, a powerhouse of the New York Abstract Expressionist movement in the 1950s. Born in Boston on June 5, 1913, Conrad Marca-Relli (born Corrado Marcarelli) was the child of Italian immigrants from the Campania region. The artist spent much of his life traveling back and forth to Italy, where, in Rome, he absorbed the classical sensibility and proportions of Renaissance composition, which he sought to incorporate into his personal style of abstraction. A dear friend of Jackson Pollock and a member of the famed Eighth Street Club, Marca-Relli imbued the movement with his own personal twist, such as his compositions of the 1950s and ‘60s which blended mixed-media painting and collage. The show is organized in collaboration with the Marca-Relli Archive. 

Why We Like It: Marca-Relli’s “painting-collage” works combine a sense of compositional harmony rooted in a European tradition and an American spontaneity of gesture associated with the Action Painters. In such works, Marca-Relli sliced the canvas with a razor blade, rearranging and gluing strips together and layering them to create works that possess both “positive” and “negative” spaces. His works’ dynamism rests in the tensions between these polarities. 

What the Gallery Says: The show includes Marca-Relli’s famed ‘Seated Figures’ works from the mid-1950s, a cornerstone of his oeuvre owing to its compositional harmony reminiscent of Cubism. Also unmissable are his two 1955 masterpieces The Strategist and The Struggle, as well as his epic tribute Death of Jackson Pollock. This painting is a testament to their shared influence more so than a simple friendship, as the relationship was replete with frequent confrontations, dialogues, encounters, and mutual respect.”

See images from the exhibition below.

Installation view "Conrad Marca-Relli: Il Maestro Irascibile" 2021. Courtesy of the Archivio Marca-Relli. Photograph by Daniele Molaj.

Installation view “Conrad Marca-Relli: Il Maestro Irascibile” 2021. Courtesy of the Archivio Marca-Relli. Photograph by Daniele Molaj.

 

Installation view "Conrad Marca-Relli: Il Maestro Irascibile" 2021. Courtesy of the Archivio Marca-Relli. Photograph by Daniele Molaj.

Installation view “Conrad Marca-Relli: Il Maestro Irascibile” 2021. Courtesy of the Archivio Marca-Relli. Photograph by Photograph by Daniele Molajoli.

Conrad Marca-Relli, Untitled (1954). Courtesy of Mattia de Luca.

Conrad Marca-Relli, Untitled (1954). Courtesy of Mattia de Luca.

Conrad Marca-Relli, M-11-56 (1956). Courtesy of Mattia de Luca.

Conrad Marca-Relli, M-11-56 (1956). Courtesy of Mattia de Luca.

Conrad Marca-Relli Cunard L-8-62 (1962). Courtesy of Mattia de Luca.

Conrad Marca-Relli, Cunard L-8-62 (1962). Courtesy of Mattia de Luca.

“Conrad Marca-Relli: Il Maestro Irascibile” is on view at Galleria Mattia de Luca, Rome, through January 2022.


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