Born in 1913 from Italian parents in Boston, Corrado di Marcarelli (who changed his name in Conrad Marca-Relli to facilitate the English pronunciation at the beginning of 1950), moved to New York in the late 1920’s where he was soon involved in the art scene. Marca-Relli studied at Cooper Union for a year, and then he worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), where he was awarded the Logan Medal of the arts. He was a vivid traveller (including important trips to Mexico and Europe), but he always kept a bond with his native country, and its traditions, specifically the Italian Renaissance.
After his military service during World War II, Marca-Relli became a member of the “Downtown Group”, a group of artists whose studios were in Greenwich Village, a neighbourhood of lower Manhattan. His first solo show was in New York City at the Niveau Gallery in 1947.
Marca-Relli is considered one of the main representative of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, and he was involved in this movement from its conception.
In 1949 he founded the Eight Street Club, together with Mark Rothko, Franz Kline and William de Kooning to organize the first Abstract Expressionist show. In 1951 he exhibited at the Ninth Street Show together with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Robert Motherwell, Barnet Newman, Hans Hoffman, Franz Klein and the gallerist Leo Castelli. This important exhibition marked the beginning of the new uniquely American artistic movement, known as Action Painting, which is based on revolutionary painting methods.
His favourite technique is the “Collage” as this allowed him to continuously change and develop his works, first by overlapping layers of paper and canvas, and then, from the 1960’s, metal plates. He used collage to delineate volumes, and to create large canvases in which the figurative remains dominant. The figure is the reason that, although Marca-Relli is considered a pivotal figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement, he stands aside from the movement with his own individual style. Marca-Relli is often considered the link between European and American cultures, as he combines the dramatic effects of Abstract Expressionism with the sense of order that can be found in Italian Renaissance painting.
He quickly gained an international renown and his artworks are part of the most important collections all around the world.
In 1997 he moved to Parma, Italy, where he died in 2000.