Dustin Orlando Responds to Detractors, Says Wynwood is Still the Same

Categories: Art, Culture
Scott Donald's "Spirit Bear in the Golden Age of Jihad"
When we last saw 35-year-old, indie curator Dustin Orlando, he was in the grips of a mind-numbing implosion. He was brooding in utter darkness inside his gallery Objex Artspace. That was back in 2005. FPL had just cut the gallery's power, and there was an eviction notice slapped on his front door.

The Wynwood pioneer, known for his edgy lowbrow programming, had blazed through the gritty arts district like a comet. Back then, Wynwood was still a shithole where street zombies ruled the curbs. Rabid developers and speculators were banking on ambitious upstarts like Orlando to turn the neighborhood around and line their pockets with big cash.

But after a five-year run and more than 40 shows at Objex Artspace, the young gallery director was squatting in cinders and ready to douche the Big Mango out of his brain.

"People trashed me and called me a dope fiend," Orlando recalls. "But let's be honest. Who in Miami doesn't party? Especially in the art scene," he says. Counter to all the substance abuse rumors, the young curator says he was just broken down.

"Basically I was burned out from working seven days a week. I was pretty much a one man army with all kinds of people and artists pulling at my coat tails. I felt I had no identity. I had become this strange persona, just 'The Objex Dude' trying to meet all these irrational expectations. When I decided to leave, everyone I thought were my friends slandered me in the press to the point I began to believe what they said," Orlando continues.

Dustin Orlando with wife, Bleu.
He's back in town this month for "Believe the Hype!," his first Miami show in five years. It's at the Eazy Street Gallery, right across the street from his former Objex Artspace stomping grounds. The group exhibit features more than 20 artists including Doug Boehm, David Chung, and Mat Curran. "I'm also exhibiting work by locals like Francesco LoCastro, Jose Mertz, Johnny Robles, and Rocky Grimes all of who exhibited here with me in the old space," Orlando adds.

What inspired this comeback after five long years? Orlando says he was motivated by all those who wrote him off as an addled junkie who simply skidded off the map. "For me, this show is kind of a 'Fuck you!' to the haters who talked crap when I left," he cracks. Orlando is hoping some of them will have the stones to walk into his show and see for themselves that's he's kept on top of his game.

"I've been busy curating shows at different spaces. I ran a gallery in Orlando, Florida, called Latitude Zero for a while, and I just got the keys to a new space there. I'm going to call it Neon Forest. I'll offer services like web and graphic design to keep my artists friends busy with commercial projects too," says Orlando. He also has plans for an indie, lowbrow art fair in Miami.  

"I came back for Basel last December with some friends whose only impression of Miami is the hype surrounding the fair. The art scene here has evolved somewhat, but if you scratch below the surface, everything here in Wynwood still feels the same.

"Back then, I would walk my dog and I'd find homeless people taking a dump right here in the middle of the sidewalk. Now I look around, and I see the same faces and the same crackheads. I just want to keep my feet wet in Miami, keep my head clear, and stick to what I know best."

The Eazy Street Gallery is located at 3501 NW Second Ave. in Wynwood. Call 305-767-3988 or visit ezstreetgallery.com

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