Recycling Religion / Satellite Art Fair Miami

The Dukley Art Center/Kotor (DAC) is a new Adriatic art venue with a mission to put the young, welcoming country of Montenegro in the world map, culturally and artistically.

DAC facilitates and empowers local, national and international artists in residence with studio space, stipend and the means of art production ranging from the visual, fine art categories to specialized workshops, including but not limited to theater and other parallel cultural, creative productions. With over fifty art exhibitions and four festivals to our name during our first 2015 season, one prevailing, singular aspect defining the DAC mission is the existing ‘open door policy’ geared towards affording its visiting guests direct dialogue with the center’s resident artists in the privacy, inner sanctum of their studios.

All DAC residents deliver regular, public presentations of their particular projects to the general public, tourists and local folk alike, as well as to top art professionals from the neighboring Balkan countries. DAC is a privately sponsored organization working in close cooperation with the cultural ministry of the central government as well as with local municipalities.

Rooted in the fact a large portion of Montenegro’s nine year old nascent economy derives from the tourist industry alone, the core of the DAC mission, via its existing artistic program, is to appeal to and integrate with the international community fomenting lasting cultural and leisure links.

The center was founded in 2015 by Marat Guelman, a transplant Russian seminal art personality and pioneer of the Moscow 1990s art gallery system, Petar Ćuković, art historian­international curator and former director of Montenegro’s National Museum in Cetinje and Neil Emilfarb,

American businessman, renowned real estate developer and key investor in Montenegro


Curated by Marat Guelman and Juan Puntes

As the post Soviet Block countries have been shedding their eight decades’ long Communist ideology, the element of Faith has replaced it. In a paradoxical, unwarranted mode, the once dormant Orthodox Church has become an intrinsic part of ‘The State’ overseeing all aspects of life well beyond the spiritual. From dress code to art and entertainment, and life and love at large, this misguided religion attempts, indefatigably, to impose upon the people it’s old moral, oppressive behavior and rancid style… little escapes it. In relation to art, it tries to impose arbitrary normatives dictating ultimate taste. In so doing, what may have once been spiritual about the Church has dissipated, becoming itself a dead­end victim of the activation of past anachronisms unfairly forced upon a present­day scenario. Consequently, people are shedding whatever faith they once may have held in the same way a snake sheds it’s skin.

Following in the steps of Komar and Melamid’s use of clichés depicting their environs via their use of deformed, dying social­realist imagery akin to pop artists trivializing images of our consumer society, a young, emerging generation of artists from post­Soviet countries­several included in this exhibition­variously employ canon and religious symbology in building their contemporary lexicon.

The art collective Recycle Group pairs imagery culled from Facebook’s “Ten Terms of Use” to the Old Testament’s “Ten Commandments”, merging and melding the Сross and the ‘Brand’ logo’s syntax into semiotics in their work.

Pavel Brat constructs, with detritus materials, gorgeous ready­made items derived from traditional Russian icon­painting’s pictorial codex.

Dmitry Gutov, on the contrary, maintains that Russian icons are, deep down, more a piece of art than a sacramental object, exalting the artistic merits of the likes of Andrei Rublev’s icons in his works, informing us all the way, that until late in the 15th century, Russia’s entire art output was but religious.

Electroboutique creates up to the minute, state of the art pseudo­sacred artworks fashioned out of electronic gadgetry as if counterpointing and illuminating the unwillingness and inability of the Orthodox Church to come up to terms with the times.

The artwork of Alexander Kosolapov criticizes and shows explicitly how the church has transformed itself into a mega­corporation operating under the same laws as the ‘marketplace’, promoting itself exactly like a brand offering products for sale.

Buying decommissioned, sacred religious icons on E­Bay, Robert Priseman recycles them incorporating new imagery, portraits of ultra­famous suicidal pop personalities a.k.a. ‘icons’, raising full fledge the issue of

deception, questioning ‘what’ is sacred, indeed, the original support, a panel sprinkled with blessed water or the accrued imagery? Is it a question of body or an inquiry of the soul?

Federico Solmi, using recycled materials and cathartic instruments, constructs mechanical machinery where the sculptural effigy of the Catholic Pope cast in raw, obsolete cheap metal, gets his long phallus rotationally viewed, caressed and licked by a throng of orbiting, past and present­day dictators. In this work, Solmicritiques the Church’s traditional behavior too often known to have been allied to such dubious political forces.

Duke Riley in collaboration with Mac Premo, brings forth a historical character anathema to the Church. Thomas Paine, the Father of the American Revolution who coined the country’s name “United States of America” never got credit for it due to his atheistic belief. The work consists of a cut­off half car bearing several freshly minted bumper stickers alluding to the upcoming presidential elections, where conservative religion plays a major card. 4,000 of them will be freely distributed by the artists around Basel art fairs and the Miami public schools. Fabricated from recycled materials they bear tongue­in­cheek statements: “Make America Great Again­Thomas Paine” and ‘Paine 16”

Pussy Riot’s artistic strategy sheds a rather different light on the subject as portrayed in their video, shot and edited only hours after the now (in)famous service performance event vexing the church rituals. This work remains fully in tune with the essence and with the spirit of Recycling Religion’s topic and sensation.

In Oleg Kulik’s Missionary performance, the action was dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, a man who once prayed to the birds, and thus started communication with another biological species at the highest confessional level. Kulik was absolving live carps in ice­cold water for half an hour. Whether or not the carps became more pure after the absolution procedure is unclear, and likewise Kulik’s religious persuasion.*

Jelena Tomasevic’s erotic­destructive pictorial composition on a recycled steel plate portrays a reverentially kneeling collaged Frangelico archangel blessing the vagina of a displaced, denuded female madly frozen in a ballet pose oblivious to the racket of phallic missiles spewed from a low flying Soviet Mig­35. This post-modern iconic painting over a dilated ‘Constructivist Square’ of white cement ground, carries a familiar resonance, a recycling of systems of conflict based purely on religion implicating art as witness and culprit. At present, these artists hail the Church in a most superficial of manners as if not facing a ‘real’ thing. It appears to them but as a mere cut­out piece of decorative scenery purporting to the loss of sacramental credibility in front of the sudden, surreptitious merger of Church and State The exhibition Recycling Religion per se, leans far more on the actual act of ‘Religion’. Ironically though, the underlying subject of this diverse proposal is the ‘gauging’ contemporary ‘Recycling’ than on the fact of artists use in looking into dead ideologies as a foil through which they make their artistic statement transgressing traditional means, yet searching for the new­in­the­old in life.

The curators purposefully selected this dystopian theme as a reflection of our present­day world innuendos, inviting a select, radical milieu of East­Westbound contemporary artists to forces via the use of installation art, graphics, video, performance and new technologies. As one ‘allegedly spiritual’ force engages in tearing the world apart while pretending to mend life, the second, more pragmatic force, emulating our own physiological biology appeals to the need for ‘spent’, as in approaching genuine renovation in the act of recycling.


Marat Guelman, Montenegro and Juan Puntes, New York, November 2015