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Former New York City art gallery operator shows his collection

Thursday, July 23, 2015



The New York art gallery that Jim Pernotto operated more than a decade ago specialized in works by newcomers and outsiders.

The Youngstown native sought out artists with a fresh perspective who were looking for a break.

But while Pernotto was curating Pacifico Fine Arts in Greenwich Village from 1999 to 2002, he also amassed a collection of works from these same up-and-coming artists.

For the first time, he will show works from his collection of Pacifico artists in an exhibition that opens Saturday at DNA Gallery, 137 S. Park St., and runs through Aug. 24.

Pernotto is an accomplished artist who maintains a studio in downtown Youngstown. But none of his own works will be included in the DNA show.

The unlikely way he got the Pacifico gallery position illustrates its outsider spirit.

Vinnie Pacifico, owner of a major food distribution company in New York and a successful entrepreneur, was looking for someone to run his gallery.

Pernotto, who was living in Youngstown at the time, was not a New York art world insider. But he saw a newspaper ad for the job, responded to it, and wound up getting it.

“I had been complaining about the art world for 20 years, about how hard it is to exhibit your work,” he said. “So now it was like, ‘You got the job; what are you going to do to fix it, buddy?’”

In his first show at Pacifico, Pernotto included a couple of artists from Youngstown, including metal sculptor Tony Armeni.

The Pacifico gallery was located in a smallish space in Greenwich Village at a time when the art exodus to Chelsea and SOHO had just begun.

“We were an Off-Broadway production,” is how Pernotto summed it up.

After the dot-com crash, followed by the Sept. 11 terror attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, things were changing in Manhattan.

Pernotto had an art show coming up at the Butler museum in Youngstown, and the artist who had been subletting his studio was leaving. So he resigned from the Pacifico, came back to his hometown, and brought his collection with him.

His upcoming show at DNA Gallery includes 20 works by 20 artists.

Highlights include a piece by Paul Richard, who was known for appropriating media and locations. At the time Pernotto met him, Richard was exhibiting his work on walls at a K-Mart on Astor Place in Manhattan. He was also known for creating art on unusual surfaces, such as doors, and for altering billboards.

Pernotto’s art show also will include a piece titled “Sweet Jesus,” by Franz Spohn, who is an art instructor at Edinboro State University in Pennsylvania. Spohn creates portraits by placing colored items, such as marbles or gumballs, in rows.

There is also a photograph of Druso, a Peruvian who was living on the streets of the East Village while Pernotto was in New York. Druso has transformed his body into a work of art with tattoos and piercings.

Other artists who Pernotto crossed paths with at Pacifico gallery, whose works are in the DNA exhibit, include Bernard Childs, Sam Gillam, Alan Shields, Youngstown’s Clyde Singer and Rockne Krebs.

Works by photographers Holger Keifel and Gregory Conniff also found their way into Pernotto’s collections.

Keifel is best known for his series of photo portraits of first responders to the 9/11 attacks, each taken the day after the tragedy on the World Trade Center site. Much of the series now resides in the 9/11 museum in New York. One of the photos is in the DNA exhibition.

Those interested in viewing what Pernotto himself has been creating lately will get a chance in January. Two exhibits featuring new works by Pernotto, including a few large-scale paintings, will open at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown and at the University of Mount Union in Alliance.