In the beginning, they said, “Let there be light.” In this instance, “they” are Zhulong Gallery owner Chris Lattanzio and director Aja Martin.
On April 3, the duo unveils a multilevel space that provides a high-tech platform for contemporary new media works — conceptual, sculptural and virtual — in the Dallas Design District. The gallery was designed with an ambient sound system, LED theater lighting and a 17-by-10-foot facade for projecting images, text and video.
“Right now in Dallas, you couldn’t pick a better time to get into new media,” says owner Chris Lattanzio.
Named after the Chinese dragon of light, Zhulong is the brainchild of Lattanzio, a self-taught artist who often found himself the odd man out in the gallery scene. A former economics major and film student, Lattanzio decided to devote himself full time to creating his highly saturated works in the late ’80s after being encouraged to pursue art by his NYU grad school professor.
“There was no artist in my family, and I didn’t go to museums until I was in college,” he says. “Looking back at the things I made, I was really good at it, I just didn’t know it was possible.”
Upon returning to Dallas, he made T-shirts for the likes of Tripping Daisy before opening his own studio in Deep Ellum. Despite shows in Dallas, Houston and Santa Fe and a plum position as one of 10 artists to represent the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, his “unique, new media style” still had difficulties translating into a commercial career.
The solution, of course, was to open his own space.
“Right now in Dallas, you couldn’t pick a better time to get into new media,” Lattanzio says. “SMU is developing a whole arts and technology department with engineering and computing all in one building. At UTD you’re cross-training [in different methodologies]. Instead of us following what the coasts are doing, we are planting the flag.”
Lattanzio calls partner Martin “super-sharp with a great eye,” and together they have aspirations to make their mark on the international art landscape, both in their programming and the technology of the space itself.
“We have the budget to get Aja to Tokyo or Singapore or Beijing,” Lattanzio says. “She’s really bringing work that I would say is right on the verge of breaking big. It’s similar to what it was like to look at a Kandinsky for the first time; it’s so electric and vibrant. It’s digital, but it’s otherworldly.”
Zhulong kicks off with its premiere show, “Satellite,” featuring 11 artists interpreting data, culture, travel and time in works relating to space exploration and an abstract notion of the satellite. The opening reception is April 3, 6-9 pm, and the exhibit continues through May 10.