JOHN PETRUCELLI // a kid from chicago

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On view April 25–April 30, 2019
Artist reception Sunday, April 28 (4–6 p.m.)
Happy Hour with John, daily 5–6 p.m.

In his week-long exhibition, A Kid from Chicago, painter John Petrucelli delivers to Nationale the full spirit of a lifetime’s oeuvre. Born and raised in the grit of Chicago, Petrucelli brought his tenacity for life and wild storytelling to Portland over fifty years ago.  A habitué of the gallery, each of his visits prompts an hour or two of conversation, often shared over fresh biscotti he brings with him. His stories range from the mundane—perhaps telling us how he spent his morning or took his coffee—to the more convoluted, such as recounting his memory of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s in vivid detail. Of the works displayed in this exhibition, a photograph Petrucelli took after the eruption is on view. The subject is a leaf covered in a fine layer of ash that he himself picked up and moved slightly off center, thus inserting his own hand in the historical event of the moment. Whether he recalls a drive-by shooting in Chicago as a newly minted public school teacher, showing a large painting at the Seattle Art Museum as a young father, or a run-in with one of the alleged Freeway Killers while hitchhiking on his way to Mexico as a college kid, each new memory he shares with us surpasses the previous. 

And so, with A Kid from Chicago, Nationale is pleased to present back to the city one of its hidden artistic talents. For, in addition to Petrucelli’s unyielding contribution to Portland Public Schools and community engagement in both Chicago and Portland, he also boasts an extensive personal collection of paintings, rubbings, and multi-media works that have remained largely unknown. Petrucelli might have fallen into art making as a result of working at J.K. Gills Art Supply Company and receiving free damaged materials, but as shown in the pieces featured here in his first solo exhibition, his imaginative works boldly mix unprecedented colors and styles as only a natural born devotee of the arts would dare to explore. 

John Petrucelli is a painter originally from Chicago and currently living in Portland, OR. He graduated from the University of Portland with a BA in English in the late 1960’s, while also studying at the Museum Art School. Later on, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago for three years before returning to Portland in 1971. He was a teacher for Portland Public Schools for over 30 years until his retirement in 2007. His work has been shown in juried exhibitions at both the Portland Art Museum (Artists of Oregon 1972) and the Seattle Art Museum (1973).