You can’t be it … unless YOU SEE IT

Medici’s ‘Pernotto Collection’ shows the artist as collector

HOWLAND — Many people take photos to remember the places they’ve been and the people they’ve met along the way.

James Pernotto collects art.

Through decades of travel and working as an artist, art teacher, gallery director and curator, the Youngstown native has amassed a huge collection of art, some of which is featured in an exhibition opening Friday at Medici Museum of Art.

Some of it also will be available for purchase.

“Most of this was up in my apartment,” Pernotto said. “You can tell a lot more about an artist or person by the things they collect.”

Pernotto titled it “you can’t be it unless you see it” because exhibition running through May 20 includes art that appealed to him and pieces that were created by artists who became influences and collaborators.

That idea appealed to Medici Director Katelyn Amendolara Russo.

“It’s a common question people have when they see a private collection, how did they acquire these works?” she said. “We started talking (when Pernotto was at Medici) and then I visited Jim at his home and saw this marvelous collection.”

Walking through the two galleries, Pernotto has a story for every piece on the wall.

“My trip in art has really centered around two people who introduced me to everybody in their circle, one was Bill Weege and the other was Joe Wilfer,” Pernotto said.

Weege was a renowned printmaker who taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Pernotto went to Wisconsin specifically to study with Weege because he was doing more avant garde work in printmaking than others at the time.

Wilfer was a printmaker and a pioneer in paper making, and he made the paper for the Chuck Close piece in the Butler Institute of American Art’s permanent collection. Pernotto helped curate the Butler’s Close show in 1989.

Pernotto used Wilfer’s paper mill to make the paper used for prints by abstract artist Sam Gilliam. That print is featured in the show, and Gilliam and Pernotto had studios in the same building in Washington, D.C. There also is a piece by laser artist Rockne Krebs, who also was part of that D.C. studio.

“One relationship led to another,” he said. “It’s all interconnected.”

But there also is work by artists Pernotto never met, whose work caught his eye and drew his attention, as well as friends both local and abroad in the arts community.

Pernotto, who had an exhibition last year at the McDonough Museum of Art and has art and steel industry artifacts on display at the Tyler History Center, both in Youngstown, isn’t displaying any of his own work in the show. He said he wanted to keep the focus on the collection, and he had the same approach when he was a gallery director in New York. He never showed his own work at the gallery because he didn’t want the artists to feel they were competing for space with the director.

In addition to the exhibition, Pernotto is selling a portion of his collection at an art auction planned for April 30 at Medici. The works that will be auctioned are on display in Medici’s classroom.

“Some are from people I went to school with and traded art with,” Pernotto said. “There are students that I had from 40 years ago. I had all of this stuff under my bed in boxes. It’s crazy. I’d rather have the work up on a wall in someone’s house where other people can enjoy it and the artists can know they’re in another collection.”

Proceeds from the auction will be split among Medici, Pernotto’s public art nonprofit NEXT Best Art and the McGuffey Foundation.

“We’ll put our proceeds back into public programming, continuing our Lunch & Learn programs and classes for adults and children,” Amendolara Russo said.

If you go …

WHAT: “you can’t be it unless you see it: The Pernotto Collection”

WHEN: Friday through May 20 with opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

WHERE: Medici Museum of Art, 9350 E. Market St., Howland

HOW MUCH: Admission is free. For more information, go to medicimuseum.art or call 330-856-2120.


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