(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: exhibitions >> Leningrad 80s >>
PERESTROIKA IN THE AVANT-GARDE:
|Page 1: Introduction. From Stockholm to Liverpool.|
|Page 2: The New Artists exhibition at the Bluecoat Gallery >>|
|Page 3: The exhibition logo >>|
|Page 4: The Exhibition of Banners at the Tate Gallery Liverpool >>
|Page 5 The Bluecoat Gallery press release >>|
Introduction. “The New Artists”. From Stockholm (1988) to Liverpool (1989).
Starting in 1988, as perestroika was taking momentum, some Leningrad artists used their personal contacts to arrange for exhibitions in Western countries. In most cases, they collaborated with small galleries or artist-run spaces, such as the Young Unkowns Gallery in London more >>. At a time when the West became fascinated by perestroika, even such small exhibitions got Soviet artists much attention.
By contrast, public funds were allocated to the first official international New Artists exhibition tour, starting at the Kulturhuset, Stockholm, in August 1988 and ending in Liverpool in February 1989. Bluecoat, Liverpool‘s centre for the contemporary arts, was the fourth venue of this tour. Both the Stockholm and the Liverpool exhibitions became part of larger Leningrad festivals.
The Liverpool festival was called “Perestroika in the Avant-Garde”, and it was promoted with a bright, vibrant logotype – a reproduction of (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov‘s painting “Star”, a geometric red / white painting from 1987 carried out in the in the constructivist style developed by the Russian and Soviet avant-garde of the early twentieth century. “Star” belongs to Kozlov‘s series of paintings rebranding Soviet logotypes, of which several had already been shown at the Kulturhuset, In this way, the slogan Perestroika in the Avant-Garde became a perfect description of “Star”, as “perestroika” literally means “rebuilding” more>>.
The New Artists exhibition tour departed as an exchange project between artists and musicians from Stockholm, on the one hand, and the Leningrad New Artists group plus Sergey Kuryokhin‘s Pop-Mekhanika musicians, on the other. Leningrad Pop-Mekhanika concerts typically involved a number of New Artists performing on stage, often showing some paintings as backdrops more>> more >> more >>. This combination of music, performance, and visual was a distinct feature of Leningrad‘s “underground” and made it attractive for the West.
The exchange project was initiated in 1987 by the City of Stockholm and supported by the Swedish Institute and the Swedish General Consulate (Leningrad), as well as – on the Soviet side – by the Ministry of Culture, the Leningrad Komsomol, and the Soviet Embassy, Stockholm. Obviously, the Soviet side needed to be convinced to be represented by unofficial culture. A number of difficulties had to be overcome before the De Nya från Leningrad / The New from Leningrad finally opened at the Kulturhuset, Stockholm, on 27 August 1988. more >> .
The festival of Swedish artists in Saint Petersburg took place in 1990.
The exhibition De Nya från Leningrad / The New from Leningrad lasted until 25 September. The other festival activities happened between 27 and 31 August: a Pop-Mekhanika concert, Sergey Kuryokhin‘s solo concert, film screenings and several lectures. For these initial, “festival” days, Stockholm invited Pop-Mekhanika musicians and some of the artists.
The festival was a success, and a number of works displayed at the exhibition were sold (although it isn’t always clear who sold them to whom) or presented as gifts. After the Kulturhuset exhibition, Fredrik Vogel, a Danish national and independent film producer who had co-curated the show with Kulturhuset director Sissi Nilsson, continued the exhibition project on his own. On behalf of the Kulturhuset, he signed contracts with many of Leningrad‘s “Kulturhuset” artists, who entrusted him their works for further exhibitions: Kozlov, Novikov, Savchenkov, Kotelnikov, Bugaev, Sotnikov, Ovchinnikov, Zaika, Maslov, and Kozin.
Fredrik Vogel organised the second and third exhibitions of “The New from Leningrad” in Denmark, and he was also in charge of taking the works to the last venue, the Bluecoat Gallery. Thus, the second exhibition took place at the Kunstnernes Hus, Aarhus, (De Nye fra Leningrad. / The New from Leningrad. 29 Oct – 13 Nov 1988), followed by the third exhibition in Copenhagen. According to Ksenia Novikova‘s chronicle (MMOMA catalogue “New Artists”, 2012), the Copenhagen venue was the Husets Udstilling, and the exhibition lasted from 16 December 1988 to 8 January 1989.
An (undated) Bluecoat press release announces the New Artists exhibition for the period from 7-28 January 1989, but this would have overlapped with the Copenhagen dates. The show was postponed to 21 January-4 February, which reduced the exhibition to two weeks instead of three.
An interesting detail is the presentation of the New Artists: both the press release as well as the poster introduce the artists as “members of the Club of Friends of Vladimir Vladimirovitch Mayakovsky”. The press release is actually a reprint of Timur Novikov's catalogue text for the exhibtion 7 Independent Artists from Leningrad (Young Unknowns Gallery, Feb 2nd - 27th, 1988, London), based on a fragment of his "New Artists” text from 1986; see page 5. Perhaps, the same text was also used for other exhibitions.
The “Perestroika in the Avant Garde” poster lists the following festival supporters:
— Presented by the Bluecoat
— Researched and formulated by ARK
— Supported by Liverpool City Council and Merseyside Arts.
“ARK” refers to a small record company, “Ark Records”, operated by two Liverpool residents: Pete Fulwell, an artist manager and managing director of Liverpool‘s Cavern Club, and Colin Fallows, at that time a lecturer at the Liverpool Polytechnic Fashion & Textiles Department. In 1987, “Ark Records” released Kuryokhin‘s LP “Insect Culture - Popular Mechanics” – a joint production by Sergey Kuryokhin with jazz-musician Igor Butman and New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev from 1985, displaying (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov‘s picture on the cover.
To no small degree, “Perestroika in the Avant-Garde” was the result of this release and of Pete Fulwell's and Colin Fallows' commitment to the Lenignrad art music scene: the Pop-Mekhanika concert at St Georges‘ Hall on 30 January 1989 became the festival‘s cornerstone and the subject of a twenty-minute BBC documentation, which is now available in two parts on antonichkov‘s YouTube channel. Part one>> and Part two>>
Likewise, the Pop-Mekhanika concert was in the focus of press articles, introducing the Leningrad guests with headlines such as They’ re going to paint the town red and Russian arts coup for the city.
Press review displayed at the Bluecoat Gallery during the exhibition of the New Artists
For the sake of clarity, it should be added that ARK‘s recording “Insect Culture” was an atypical “Pop-Mekhanika” concert – it was a studio production focusing on New Composers‘ sound collages, while the typical Pop-Mekhanika performance was a large, often chaotic happening involving guest musicians, as was the case in Liverpool. In his article for the Guardian, Bill Harpe wrote:
But the heart of the event belonged to the rock musicians – with musicians from the Bunnymen, The Christians, It’s Immaterial, Pink Industry, and Lawnmower providing the Liverpool input alongside their counterparts from Leningrad.
In my article from 2018 “Pop-Mekhanika in the West”, I discussed the impact Kuryokhin‘s approach had on his performances in the West more >>.
Video frame from the BBC documentary about Sergey Kuryokhin‘s Pop Mekhanika (Popular Mechanics) concert
The festival poster also informs us about a solo concert by Sergey Kuryokhin (3 February) and lectures by Colin Fallows (26 January) and Timur Novikov (1 February). In this way, the structure of the Liverpool festival resembled that of Stockholm, except that there were no film screenings. As all activities involving Leningrad musicians and artists happened between 30 January and 3 February, Leningrad performers were invited for that very period (arriving around the 27 January). Thus, we may assume that none of the artists attended the opening of the exhibition.
The BBC documentation shows that Liverpool received Leningrad musicians and artists with much attention by the press. Apart from the Pop Mekhanika concert and a number of interviews, the documentation also presents some views of a one-week exhibition at the Tate Liverpool, organised by the museum in addition to Timur Novikov‘s lecture (see page 4).
Regarding the exhibits at the Bluecoat Gallery, things started getting confused after the end of the Liverpool exhibition. According to Fredrik Vogel, Sergei Bugaev did not want him “to represent the group of artists any more” (letter to me on 7 April 1993). Bugaev took some works to art-dealer Paul Judelson to New York, among them three large paintings by Kozlov. The remaining paintings went to London, where they were stored at the South London Gallery, “as a favour to the Bluecoat Gallery, who had no space to keep them” (letter to me from David Thorp, 30 March 1993).
After signing agreements with most of the artists, I managed to get their works from London to Berlin in 1993 or 1994, although not all, because of lack of financial means – I had to ask friends of friends to help me with transportation. These works have either joined their respective authors, or, in a few cases, are still in Berlin. In 1997, David Thorp brought me Timur Novikov‘s works to Berlin, and later Andrey Khlobystin picked them up and took them back to Saint Petersburg, to Novikov‘s family. (Interestingly, in 2014, the Tate Gallery, London, acquired one of these works from Novikov’s heirs, so it is now back in London.)
Some years ago, when I attempted to get the remaining works from London to Berlin, I found out that they had been handed over to an artist who kept them in his private studio, but as he failed to pay the rent and was evicted, those paintings were destroyed. In retrospect, it appears that if I hadn’t taken care of the situation in the early nineties, the losses would have been much more substantial.
Research and Text: Hannelore Fobo, April / October 2020
Uploaded 24 April 2020