Interview: Dustin Orlando of Circuit12 Tells Us Who to Watch in Contemporary Art

Even Flow, now on view at Circuit12, features the work of Patrick Martinez, Aaron De La Cruz, and James Roper.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Dallas isn't the first place you think of in regards to smart, contemporary art.

However, Dustin and Gina Orlando are changing perceptions. Their Circuit12 Contemporary brings innovative and inspired art to the Big D, showcasing emerging talents from all around the world. 

We became aware of Circuit12 through one of our favorite artists, Patrick Martinez, when he participated in the Dream Continuum group show back in March. Martinez is now back in Dallas, leading a triple threat exhibition—alongside friend Aaron De La Cruz and painter James Roper—entitled Even Flow, which runs through November 12, 2012.

In celebration of the exhibition caught up with Dustin Orlando to discuss art in Dallas, fresh contemporary talents, and the rise of Mr. Martinez.

Interview by Nick Schonberger (@nschon)

Tell me a little about Dallas' contemporary art scene and how your gallery fits in?
I'm relatively new to Dallas, but my wife was born and raised here. She went to Dallas’s revered Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, with alumnus the likes of Erykah Badu and Norah Jones, among many others. After living in Hawaii by way of Miami, we decided to relocate back to Dallas around the time our son was born. I had my reservations, but was pleasantly surprised to find a very metropolitan city; complete with fashionistas, high end shopping, and an ever changing skyline glimmering in the distance. The contemporary art scene here is small, but growing; there are a number of contemporary galleries, museums, and non-profit spaces in and around Dallas popping up. In general, most Texans are pretty conservative, but especially when it comes to what they purchase art-wise. There also seems to be a lot of "Texas Pride" among Texan collectors. Naturally, an air of favoritism is quite obvious when it comes to what some collectors are looking for or are willing to buy.

Don’t get me wrong—there is still a remarkable number venues for Contemporary art in Dallas, showing both regional and artists from abroad. We feel like Circuit12 fills a void in the Dallas art scene by showing an emerging group of artists from all over the country (and the world) in a city that seems to be regionally focused. We are exposing the existing gallery regulars to a new and fresh perspective that most have not encountered among the artists in rotation in the galleries here. We bring a high level of energy and excitement to our program of exhibitions, so I guess you could say we are a breath of fresh air in a community that appears to be making swift progress and recognition in the art world. Dallas is now one of many cities to host an art fair, and it’s surprisingly great! Things are quickly changing in our favor here in D town.

You're strong suit is support of emerging artists. How do you identify the talent you bring to Dallas and are their specific considerations at play for the city and the local market?
We have two rules we operate by : 1) Like the artist's work & 2) Like the artist as a person. Once we determine that the person is a good fit, we pursue exhibition opportunities and try to build solid relationships. We stand behind the work we show. When it comes to curating, we strictly maintain a museum like calibre of execution. Many of our artists are relatively unknown in Dallas at the moment. Thanks to us, that is changing now. Because of the platform we provide our artists, a dynamic is created with our audience; sparking interest and intrigue, keeping our patrons eagerly anticipating more.

We have two rules we operate by : 1) Like the artist's work & 2) Like the artist as a person.

Even Flow is the current show. What is the aim of bringing this trio together?
We came across Patrick and Aaron's work around the time we first decided to open the space here in Dallas. When realized they would show well together, we got a good dialog going with both of them and went from there. It turned out they were already friends and had shown together before. We had already worked with James Roper on a separate exhibition, so when Patrick and I we're discussing the possible idea's for the show, we decided to make it a three person exhibition. I proposed James' work, Patrick liked it, and we made it happen. All three artists are at a similar point in their careers and collectively delivering spectacular works. We envisioned it being a solid show. Gina and I thought it would be great to get these three amazing guys showing under one roof, and to showcase their talents to the best of our abilities.

Patrick Martinez is a Complex favorite. He's shown with you before. Tell me a little about how he's grown as an artist since you've known him.
Patrick’s career is full throttle. Looking back, surprisingly enough, we had no idea he had the following he does. I mean, we are lucky he even responded to our emails! We love Patrick though, he is a dream artist to work with. Professional, respectful, extremely intelligent, and talented; he's a truly devoted artist on the rise. It makes it a lot easier from a gallery director's perspective when the artists you work with are already making things happen on their own. What Patrick has been working on in the studio lately has been nothing short of amazing. Shifting gears, some of his newer pieces use materials such as melted down hand guns and deconstructed neon signage, among a plethora of media. Patrick is one of our super stars; now most outlets (VH1, Creem Magazine as of late) actually contact us regarding his work (as opposed to the other way around!)

We're also big fans of Aaron De La Cruz. What excites you about him?
Gina and I have a soft spot for repetitive and bold graphic work, and all things design oriented. So that, plus the fact Aaron is just an all around good guy, makes it easy for us to want to work with him. In addition, his work is immaculate; clean and can live well in any environment. In terms of clientele, his work appeals to a wide fan base because of its beauty and versatility. The potential to move art work that we believe in is one of the many things that excites us about his work. Aaron has an amazing ability to compose a piece of art. His execution and placement of elements in his artwork are unmatched. Aside from being a great guy, awesome artist, and versatile designer, Aaron De La Cruz has an array of different sized art; a much desired quality to any curator. His work could look great salon style or conventionally hung. 

How about James Roper? What should we know about him?
James Roper is an not only an amazing artist, but also a technically proficient craftsman. His paintings are informed by an array of cartoon and graphic design elements, as well as comic books and pop art. His strategic placement of color within his compositions are nothing short of bright explosions, drawing you in, provoking, and engaging your interest. The imagery is complex and sometimes abstract; but also extremely clean and vaguely representational on occasion. Gina sees something new in his work every time, regardless of how many times she’s looked. You could get lost in one of those pieces for hours. Hours trying to crack the code to his amazingly flawless technique alone! The envy of any painter. He also makes films, does motion graphics, and is definitely someone to pay close attention to over the next few years. An incredibly talented and very easy to work with individual. Definitely a star in our lineup.

The gallery does a superb job of mixing media. Is there ever a thought to specialize? Or, does variety best push your mission?
My wife and I try to pursue artists who produce visually stimulating works, preferably using unconventional or alternative media. However, we always enjoy a good painting. The ability to tell a patron that a particular piece is made from a specific material, such as melted down hand guns for example, usually warrants heightened attention. It's cool to see how differently they react to the work after you explain the media and some of the process. We’re not a one trick pony. One of our goals is to always remain versatile and varied in the work we show. A neon colored melting pot full of complex artwork and ideas.

Who are some of the other artists that have caught your eye in the last year?
I really like Graham Caldwell, he makes sculptures out of iridescent glass and steel, an amazing marriage of media. I'm also a big fan of this guy from L.A. named Mark Schoening. Mark makes paintings using hundreds of layers of surfboard resin. Between each layer is a screen printed or hand painted graphic, resulting in an almost 3 dimensional painting His palette is perfectly varied, composed of just the right ratio of pastel, neon and bold color. Finally, an artist from Milwaukee named Eddie Villanueva. Eddie makes all kinds of stuff , but I'm really into his site specific installations. Comprised of abstract geometric designs and prints, some of his installations combine metallic tape, found wood, lights, carpet, and other varied media. His installations are sometimes as big as 30 feet tall by however wide the rooms he builds them in are. Pretty amazing stuff. Gina is really in to Josh Reams at the moment, an amazing Chicago-based but Texan-born painter. His works are primarily abstract and composed of breathtaking gradients, graffiti like airbrush markings, and perfectly combined colors. She’s also closely following Kristen Schiele, a New York artist and painter with a vengeance. She creates the most amazing textures in her work, taking painting where many paintings fear to go. They are loose, heavily layered, and beautifully composed.

What's next for Circuit12?
In December, we will be in Miami for Art Basel, participating in SCOPE Miami. Scope is a satellite fair that runs alongside Art Basel Miami. They also have fairs in New York and Basel, Switzerland. Circuit12 will be setting up a booth inside the fair and showing a larger than life size bronze sculpture and fully functional fountain by Patrick Martinez ("Thug Fountain"). The piece was hand selected by VH1 to go in the VH1 Lounge at Scope Miami 2012. It will be a great place to relax, enjoy a cocktail, and check out some VH1 sponsored goods. They will be screening a recent interview they filmed with Patrick Martinez as part of a new series called "artists you ought know." After that we return to Dallas for a heavy rotation of small group shows, plus a few noteworthy solo shows.

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