Art Commentary: Conrad Marca-Relli at The Pollock Krasner House

“Proximity is everything,” so some people believe. The adage certainly applies to the current exhibit at The Pollock Krasner House where Conrad Marca-Relli’s work (from 1953-56) garnishes the walls. Marca-Relli was a neighbor of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner’s, which was the impetus for the friendship that grew between them. Artist Alex Russo bought Marca-Relli’s home soon after he and his wife moved to Europe, and a friendship also grew between Russo and Krasner because of proximity.

Artists who live near each other often form more than friendships, however. Encouragement and respect are exchanged as well. Sometimes, these artists become collaborators and mentors, and even adopt a similar style or aesthetic. Of course, regarding Marca-Relli, it’s safe to say he developed and maintained his own special signature. However, it’s intriguing to wonder if he was influenced in any way by Pollock or Krasner. Perhaps the friendship simply contributed to making his years in Springs pleasant ones. We don’t know the answer; we’re just asking.

Marca-Relli’s paintings conjure up emotions, senses and an appreciation of texture/tone. They allow the mind to play, to experience a “stream-of-consciousness” as we engage with the work. Here are some impressions that give voice to such spontaneous interpretations. They are meant to be subjective and respectful rather than flip. [expand]

Generally speaking, Marci-Relli’s canvases recall an abstract quilt or puzzle, put together piece-by-piece with parts that fit succinctly and some which overlap. Colors are often earth tones, suggesting a fundamental, primitive, essential sensibility. The terrain can be varied: a desert or a cityscape if we were to expand our imagination. Figures sometimes seem part of the setting, but we’re not sure. At times (like in “S-54-11”), these figures dwell inside, perhaps in a living room, surrounded by their personal possessions.

In a work like “S-54-18,” a seated figure is more definitive and appears to be outside; the picture plane is congested. Conversely, some works are not crowded at all, the individual shapes reminding us of paper dolls, of all things. (Remember, we suggested interpretations would be a result of spontaneous reactions.) Another piece looks like a girl clinging to a cloud and perhaps about to be attacked by aliens. Maybe not aliens, but mysterious creatures or an event that evokes discomfort.

A few works use color, including one with a seated woman. It is painted on cardboard, providing a different kind of environment. Other materials are equally arresting, like the artist’s ink on canvas. What stands out, however, is Marca-Relli’s “Death of Jackson Pollock,” a heartfelt homage to his neighbor and more important, his friend.

 

Bob Markell at Siren’s Song

Bob Markell’s etchings and monotypes are also an homage, this time to the female figure or “Femme” as the show is called. The collection of works has both an evocative and provocative theme, featuring women who are putting on or taking off some article of clothing. While the effects are sensual, that’s not the only aspect of Markell’s work worth noting. Rather, it’s the details that are so charming.

Details come in all sizes, of course. There’s the specific, yet whimsical lines of each figure, the expression on a woman’s face, the articulation of the body. And the movement inherent in each activity. There are also the details, which convey a particular time and place: period furniture, patterned bedspreads, the females’ clothes. It’s not present time, that’s for sure. Perhaps it’s the turn-of-the-century, a time that speaks for itself in Markell’s fetching images.

That the artist has a fine sense of detail and articulation is no surprise, given Markell’s experience as a set designer, particularly during the “Golden Age of TV.” After seeing this show, we say, “Bring back the good-old days.”

 

Conrad Marca-Relli’s works can be seen at East Hampton’s Pollock Krasner House (830 Springs-Fireplace Road) until July 30. Call 631-324-4929.

Bob Markell’s “Femme” can be seen at Greenport’s Siren’s Song Gallery (516 Main Street) until July 25. Call 631- 477-1021. [/expand]

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