Born in 1913 to Italian immigrant parents, Marca-Relli was a primarily self-taught artist. After his high school graduation, he briefly studied at Cooper Union before establishing a studio in Greenwich Village. During the Depression, Marca-Relli worked for the WPA. At this time, he came into contact with progressive artists, including Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and John D. Graham, who exposed him to modernist trends in art.

After serving in the army during World War II, Marca-Relli returned to his artistic career in New York. He initially depicted cityscapes and carnival scenes in a Surrealist style, before turning to abstraction in the early 1950s. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Marca-Relli was active in the Greenwich Village avant-garde. He helped to found the Eighth Street Club, an artists’ group whose members included de Kooning, Kline, and Jack Tworkov, and he assisted dealer Leo Castelli in organizing the “Ninth Street Show,” arguably the first comprehensive display of Abstract Expressionist work.

On a trip to Mexico in 1952, Marca-Relli began experimenting with collage. Juxtaposing pieces of canvas allowed him to demarcate edges and create a sense of depth in white-on-white pictures. In 1953, Marca-Relli purchased a house near Jackson Pollock’s in East Hampton. Three years later, he identified Pollock’s body for the police after his fatal car accident.

As his career progressed, Marca-Relli distanced himself from the New York School, and he lived in numerous different places in the United States and Europe. He died in 2000.

© Copyright 2011 Hollis Taggart Galleries

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