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November 06, 2012

A Conrad Marca-Relli Retrospective in London

By Ingrid Skjong | Art

A Conrad Marca-Relli Retrospective in London
Conrad Marca-Relli, Untitled, 1960, collage and mixed media on canvas, 91 x 102 cm, Courtesy Archivio Marca-Relli, Parma

The 60-year career of American artist Conrad Marca-Relli plays out in London as the Ronchini Gallery heads into the final weeks of its exhibit “Conrad Marca-Relli: The Architecture of Action” (through November 24). The first solo show of his work in the UK, it is something special.

“Time has already dimmed the glow of much late-20th century art,” says curator Kenneth Baker. “Marca-Relli’s best efforts still look solid.”

Born in Boston, the artist was an essential figure in the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, along with contemporaries like Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock. Specializing in collage, he used oil paint and other materials (plastic, aluminum, newsprint, fabric) to create periodically colorful, often sizable works that toggled between structural and abstract. The exhibition includes Death of Jackson Pollock, which memorialized the evening Marca-Relli identified Pollack’s body at the scene of the car crash that killed him. Macabre? Perhaps. But also exemplary of how personal Marca-Relli’s art tends to be.

“Collectors who own examples of [his] work—especially from the ’50s and early ’60s —tend to be passionately attached to it,” says Baker. “People who remember it mainly from seeing it in reproduction are often struck, as am I, by the assertiveness of the work’s physical presence and texture.” Through November 24; 22 Dering St.; 44-20/7629-9188; ronchinigallery.com.