"Tribute to Conrad Marca-Relli" at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection:
the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation receives
the donation of two paintings by Marca-Relli

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Venice, announces the donation of two paintings by Conrad Marca-Relli in the context of a selection of 15 important works dating from 1953 to 1989. The “Tribute to Conrad Marca-Relli” will be on view in the Barchessa of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection from September 5 to September 24, 1998.

One of the most important exponents of American Abstract Expressionism, Marca-Relli (born in Boston in 1913 of Italian parents) characterizes an artist free of constraints, a kind of ‘nomad’ of post-war painting. He started painting in the 1930s and had his first solo exhibition in 1947 in New York. From this year he began traveling extensively, forging links between Europe’s artistic circles and American Abstract Expressionism. Together with some of his artist friends, among them Rothko, Kline and de Kooning, he founded the Eighth Street Club, while at the same time promoting the exhibition of the Abstract Expressionists of the Ninth Street Club, the cradle of the movement of the heterogeneous group of artists who were to represent the new avant-garde of American abstraction.

After a sojourn in Europe, introducing Abstract Expressionism at a time when European interest in Americans art was growing, Marca-Relli returned to the States. While in Rome he had met several Italian artists and in particular Afro and Burri, with whom he remained in close contact. In 1953 Marca-Relli moved to East Hampton, Long Island, where he became a close friend of his neighbour, Jackson Pollock, and where he lived for approximately fifteen years, in the period in which the township became the focal point
of New York’s art world. During the 1950s and 60s the artist enjoyed increasing recognition, winning, for example, the Logan Medal of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1954, becoming a Visiting Critic at Yale in 1954/5 and a Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1958. These decades were important in terms of exhibitions and of ever more frequent travels, evidence of a personality constantly in search of new stimuli and inspiration. This nomadism was consecrated by the major solo-exhibition held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1967, which established Marca-Relli as one of the leading representatives of the new American abstraction. His typical isolation and independence from the rest of the group was underscored by the fact that Marca-Relli had two studios, one in East Hampton and one in Ibiza, where he painted a series of canvases particularly influenced by his travels and by the landscape of the Spanish peninsula, which he visited frequently. Yet despite his desire for solitude, the artist continued to exhibit with his friends, among them Philip Guston, Adolph Gottlieb and Robert Motherwell. Perceived as a key figure of a specific moment in the development of American painting, Marca-Relli’s works are represented in the major private and public collections of the United States, including the major New York museums: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (which already has four of his works), and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Paradoxically, in Europe, whence he has chosen to return, moving to Italy in 1997, Marca-Relli’s art remains still to be discovered.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is grateful to receive the donation of two emblematic works of the artist’s career for its museums in Venice and Bilbao: in the spirit of Peggy Guggenheim’s collection, Venice will receive Figure Form, 1958 (collage, 88.9 x 134.6 cm), while The Windmill, 1972 (collage, 240 x 326 cm), a masterpiece of Marca-Relli’s Spanish period, will be displayed long-term at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

The donated works are being exhibited in the context of a rigorous selection of 15 paintings, which capture the progress of Marca-Relli’s style from 1953 to 1989, in order to offer for the first time to the European public a summary but significant exhibition of this important artist.

The exhibition has been curated by Luca Massimo Barbero. For the occasion Electa, Milan, will present a new monograph, Marca-Relli, available in Italian and English editions (hardback, 200 pages, Lit. 120.000 – details to be confirmed), with texts by Luca Massimo Barbero and Fred Licht. The volume contains extensive documentation of the artist’s work and of his relationship with critics, collectors and artists as well as a critical anthology with texts by H.H. Arnason, William C. Agee, Dore Ashton, Santiago Amon, Daniel Geralt Miracle, Harold Rosenberg e Parker Tyler.

The exhibition has been organized in collaboration with Galleria d’Arte Niccoli, Parma.