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      (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s • No.111 >>

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov • Diaries 1979–1983

by Hannelore Fobo, June 2022




Chapter 3. Leningrad artist groups and exhibitions

In Kozlov’s notes, we find the names of his fellow artists primarily in the context of their joint exhibitions, either as a line-up of artists or individually, when they discuss their works (as any exhibition inevitably incited them to such discussions). In the diaries, three exhibitions stand out among some others: the Olympic (1980), Letopis (1981), and Second TEII (1983) exhibitions. The first is a public exhibition, the second is a (double) private “flat exhibition”, and the third is again a public exhibition, but unlike the first, it was organised by a group of artists. Before looking at them in some detail, a short note seems appropriate. For Soviet non-official artists, opportunities to show their works publicly were quite limited, and they therefore continued the tradition of private “flat exhibitions” (“Kvartirnye vystavki”), lasting just a day or a few days. Showing works at private places did not diminish the importance of such an event, and they were often scrupulously prepared. But it obviously limited the number of visitors.

The “Olympic” exhibition

In a note dated 28 March1980, Kozlov writes about an upcoming public group exhibition which included non-official artists – for the first time, he had an opportunity to display some of his works publicly:

    It is hard to believe something like this can come about – there used to be too many barriers in the way whenever they tried to put on an exhibition of this size.
    (pp. 1-37-38)

In all likelihood, Kozlov’s note refers to the so-called “Olympic” exhibition, mentioned on p. 2-09 as an exhibition opening at beginning of the Olympic Games. The 1980 Summer Olympics took place in Moscow from 19 July to 3 August, and according to Leningrad artist and art activist Sergey Kovalsky, co-founder of the TEII (see below), the exhibition was organised “in anticipation of foreign visitors to the Olympics who were due to arrive at the Games” (TEII, p.20). However, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics, and the impact of the “Olympic Exhibition” was not as had been expected “since there were no guests” (ibid., p. 21). Kovalsky also writes that when the exhibition opened to the general public (probably after the Olympics ended), it wasn’t advertised, and only artists and their friends visited it (ibid.). The fact that the exhibition had two openings would explain why the opening is dated 7 August in Kozlov's diary, that is, several days after the Olympics closed.

If my assumption is correct, then the selection of works to be displayed started at the end of March 1980. The venue was the Leningrad Youth Palace, and a commission from the Union of Artists selected the works at the end of March 1980 (p. 1-34). Unlike participating in flat exhibitions, participating in a public exhibition meant being one among many other artists – 167 artists (TEII, p. 21), each contributing with just one or two works (p. 1-37). Two of Kozlov’s monotypes were accepted, and in the same note quoted above, he wrote about one of them, “Visions of the Night”:

    The psychological landscape of “Visions of the Night” would have been better suited to a personal exhibition or to an exhibition with fewer participants, as the meaning of the work is not immediately apparent, and in the midst of the large number of extremely varied works by other artists which differ greatly in terms of technique, meaning, and the artist’s style, it won’t be noticeable. People will walk by, unmoved.
    (p.1-36)

We also learn that the commission accepted “several sheets of Misha Goroshko’s drawings. Naturally, they accepted some from Slava, Alena and Timur as well”, but rejected Volodya’s (p.1-39-40). Being non-official artists, their participation depended on the expertise of their “professional” colleagues from the Union of Artists, who also participated.

Letopis

It is in the context of this “Olympic” exhibition that the name of Timur Novikov appears in Kozlov’s diaries for the first time. Novikov, having “inherited” the Letopis group from Bob Koshelokhov at the end of the 1970s, arranged at least one Letopis exhibition in his own studio, a room in a communal flat. It is not clear when exactly he invited Kozlov to join the group, but both Kozlov’s personal show and a Letopis group with Kozlov’s participation show took place in early 1981, opening 24 February, 1981 (p. 2-48) and 21 March 1981 (p. 2-55), respectively.




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov and his personal exhibition of graphic works at Timur Novikov‘s studio. 24 February, 1981. Photo: Timur Novikov. E-E archival number E-E-pho-YC03-op2, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov and his personal exhibition of graphic works at Timur Novikov‘s studio. 24 February, 1981.
Photo: Timur Novikov.
E-E archival number: E-E-pho-YC03-op2
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University



The fact that the first was a solo exhibition, as Kozlov himself remembers it, doesn't follow from the journal entry. It actually mentions, under the heading “Letopis” group, four artists: Elena Figurina, Bob Koshelokhov, Timur Novikov, Evgenij Kozlov. As so often, Kozlov’s photographic documentation provides some further information. The pictures, dated on the reverse, show that it was indeed a Letopis group meeting with artists discussing Kozlov’s works on paper, from which they selected those to be displayed more>>.

On 17 March 1981, preparations for the Letopis group exhibition were under way. 

    “Letopis”. Discussing the works, exhibition of the group,
    Bringing Bob K.'s paintings to Timur N.
    Was at Bob's house and saw a huge number of his paintings.
    The colour, freedom of composition and boldness are amazing.
    (p. 2-53)

A note from 21 March 1981 refers to “The opening of the Letopis group exhibition at Timur N.’s place”, completed with a line-up of six artists. Apart from Figurina, Koshelokhov, Novikov and Kozlov, there are Leonid Fedorov and a certain N. A poster Kozlov created for “The Fourth Letopis Exhibition” indicates N.’s full name – Nina Alekseeva – as well as the other opening days, 22 and 28 March. (The poster is now in the collection of Maria Novikova-Savelyevea, Timur Novkov’s heir.) In the diary, the finissage is dated 29 March. It seems plausible that it was the fourth Letopis exhibition since Koshelokhov had founded the group in 1976, and it was probably also the last.




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov with four paintings from the “white” period. Letopis group exhibition at Timur Novikov's place, March 1981 Left wall: works by Bob Koshelokhov. Right wall: works by Timur Novikov. E-E archival number: E-E-pho-YH05-op2, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov with four paintings from the “white” period.
Letopis group exhibition at Timur Novikov's place, March 1981
Left wall: works by Bob Koshelokhov. Right wall: works by Timur Novikov.
E-E archival number: E-E-pho-YH05-op2
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University



Photographs from Kozlov’s archive demonstrate that some of his works from his solo show were also included in the group exhibition, but the focus was now on painting: “In addition to graphics, I also exhibited paintings from the white period. Four canvases painted in tempera and oil.” (p. 2-55) more>>.

Kozlov was quite familiar with what was generally called “Timur’s place at Voinava street”, since he often came to see Novikov on his day trips to Leningrad and sometimes stayed there overnight. During the following years, as the other tenants of the communal flat were being resettled, Novikov started using the vacant rooms to extend his art activities, and the place became Leningrad’s legendary “ASSA Gallery”, before it closed down in 1987 more>>.

TEII

In Diary II, there is a note dated 14 November (1981): “Opening of a city-wide exhibition of Leningrad non-official artists”, which saw two of Kozlov’s works (p.2-70). Most probably, it is a reference to the “Bronnitskaya street” flat exhibition (14-17 November 1981), considered as the kick-off for Leningrad’s first association of non-official artists. Its official name was The Society for Experimental Visual Art , but it became better known by its abbreviation TEII (ТЭИИ – Товарищество экспериментального изобразительного искусства).

The TEII was active between 1981 and 1991, its main goal being to provide its members with opportunities to show their works publicly. Although the TEII never became fully autonomous, and although works shown publicly had to pass censorship for most of its existence, it played a substantial role in Leningrad’s cultural landscape. TEII artists organised a total of thirteen “general” public exhibitions, as well as many smaller ones.

Censorship followed a double procedure: first, the TEII committee compiled a list of all works to be displayed, and before the opening, a delegation from the city’s exhibition committee visited the exhibition to check whether the items on the list indeed corresponded to those displayed. It also required that works containing censored subject matter (political / religious / sexual) be removed.

Kozlov didn’t join The TEII as a member, but starting with the Second TEII Exhibition, which opened at the Leningrad Palace of Youth on 5 April 1983, he participated in most of TEII’s “general” exhibitions. 

Diary IV documents the complicated process of how the artist was establishing a selection of works for the Second TEII Exhibition. The diary pages allow the reconstruction of a total of eight different lists, as by that time, Kozlov had created a fundamentally new style, but still wanted to show some of his earlier works. The discussion starts on page 4-11 with a first list, most probably written at the end of February or beginning of March 1983, and lasts almost up to the opening of the exhibition on 5 April 1983. The notes end with some technical information for the photographic documentation of the exhibits and the closing of the exhibition on 20 April (p. 4-54). I discussed this process in detail in an article from 2021, “(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov's Participation in the Second TEII Exhibition (1983) in His Diary and Photographs” more>>. In the following paragraphs, I describe how his encounters with other artists helped him clarify his own position and influenced his selection of works.

Diary notes document three evenings and nights Kozlov spent in Leningrad during the week prior to the opening, when he met with artists who, like him, participated in the exhibition. The entry from 29 March starts with an appreciation of three of Novikov’s works to be displayed (see TEII, p.114), followed by a description of the evening.

    An evening at Timur Novikov's studio. Alik Tager, Vanya Sotnikov. T.N. finished the second side of a square called "0" (zero object). Two nice large landscapes by T. for exhibition at the Youth Palace. The third with the Neva river and the spit of Vasilievsky Island is simpler, more ordinary.

    I spent the night with V. S [Vanya = Ivan Sotnikov] and T. N [Timur Novikov] at the studio. T. N. finished the “Zero Object”; it is beautiful and interesting. Before this meeting, these conversations and thoughts, I wasn't sure about which paintings to show at the Dv. [orets] M. [olodezhi] [Palace of the Youth] – those I included in the catalogue file card (1981-1982) or 1983? I think that, at present, the paintings from 1983 best represent my fundamental approach to painting, in all respects. These should be presented now, and not be left for later.
    […]
    A powerful night, excitement, intoxication, almost a thrust, not yet for revelations, but for work. Professionalism everywhere in the canvas as the end point of the working process. I will exhibit:
    “Brigades” (House)
    “Double Painting”
    “WASP” (XX)
    (p.4-28-31)

It is not clear which canvas Kozlov was referring to when writing “Professionalism everywhere in the canvas as the end point of the working process.” But is seems that he brought at least one of his own paintings to Novikov’s place and continued working on it there.

On the next evening, 30 March, Kozlov went to see Vadim Ovchinnikov in his studio. Although he considers the artist as “a professional” (p.4-32), he notes in his current paintings a "monastic" attitude towards colour and misses “something unrestrained, celebrating multi-coloured brilliance that could astonish the viewer.” (p. 4-33). Likewise, he finds Ovchinnikov’s sketches “too lyrical or mocking - a move fundamentally wrong.” (p. 4-35). Expressing his point of view, Kozlov continuous, “A work must be energetic, vibrant, new, bold in composition(s) and colour relationships.” (p. 4-35).

A third entry desccribes another night at Novikov’s place.

    Spent the night from the first to the second of April. in T. [Timur Novkov's] studio. I’m going to remove “House” and “Double Painting” tomorrow. How should the works for the exhibition be selected? Only from among those paintings that can be understood. “House” taught me a lesson. Although it is a professional work, the subject is too much directed towards / used by artists of the (60s) - 75s. This is not the language of the future or even of the present.
    (p. 4-38-40)

All notes refer to “professionalism” in art, but they also show that for Kozlov, a true work of art required more than displaying the professional skills of whoever created it, including himself – it must speak the language of the future. “House” met the first criterion, but not the second, and when viewed more objectively after the second night spent at Novikov’s place, he removed it from the list. In 1987, Kozlov repainted it entirely. Keeping only its compositional structure, the painting is now called “Minor Target Shooting”. 




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Дом (прихожане в церкви) / House (Parishioners in Church). Oil on canvas, 89.5 x 102.5 cm, 1982 Archival number E-E-187007 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Мелкий расстрел / Minor Target Shooting Oil on canvas, 89.5 x 102.5 cm, 1987, Final version of the painting to the left,E-E archival number E-E-187007, The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Дом (прихожане в церкви) / House (Parishioners in Church).
Oil on canvas, 89.5 x 102.5 cm, 1982
E-E archival number E-E-187007
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Мелкий расстрел / Minor Target Shooting
Oil on canvas, 89.5 x 102.5 cm, 1987
Final version of the painting to the left
E-E archival number E-E-187007
The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin




Catherine Mannick's photographs taken at the opening on 5 April 1983 more>> document Kozlov’s final selection for the Second TEII exhibition. Six paintings and works on paper from 1981, 1982, and 1983 constitute a miniature retrospective of the artist. Kozlov created a “personal poster” for the exhibition, using a stencil technique and transfer letters. On the closing day of the exhibition, Kozlov had the poster signed on the reverse by thirty-five of forty-four participating artists.




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov with two of his works, at the opening of the Second TEII Exhibition Leningrad, Palace of the Youth, 5 April 1983  Top. Площадь около вокзала / The Square near the Station Oil on fibreboard 75 x 95 cm, 1981. E-E archival number. E-E-181012 Bottom: Красный пруд / Red Pond Oil on fibreboard 82 x 92.5 cm, 1981. E-E archival number E-E-181015 Photo: Catherine Mannick. Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov with two of his works
at the opening of the Second TEII Exhibition
Leningrad, Palace of the Youth, 5 April 1983

Top. Площадь около вокзала / The Square near the Station
Oil on fibreboard 75 x 95 cm, 1981. Archival number. E-E-181012
Bottom: Красный пруд / Red Pond
Oil on fibreboard 82 x 92.5 cm, 1981. E-E archival number: E-E-181015

Photo: Catherine Mannick.
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University



Other exhibitions

Among the exhibitions mentioned in the diaries, the Olympic, Letopis, and Second TEII exhibitions are the most relevant ones, but there are some more in Diary IV.

– “The Exhibition of Twenty” from 1-5 March 1983, a TEII exhibition at the ATS (Public Telephone Network Station) on Herzen Street. The TEII book refers to this exhibition without a title and with just seventeen artists (thirty-eight works in total), but the date and venue correspond to Kozlov's entry (TEII p. 93). Seven participants were TEII members (TEII p. 629). Kozlov lists the names of eight artists, but not his own (p.4-10). It is not clear whether he also participated.

– Timur Novikov’s solo exhibition at the Library of the Academy of Sciences, opening on 4 April 1983, with paintings and graphics from the light-coloured period. (p. 4.-49). This entry continues with an interesting note on Novikov’s approach to painting:

    He claims that he does not paint a painting, that he chooses the colours almost automatically, without certainty. And although he sees that the painting could be done better, he is lazy and has to leave it almost unfinished - perhaps that is the way to appreciate the incompleteness of a completed painting. Or he stops himself for fear of spoiling one of the successful versions.

– In a note dated 21 April 1983, Kozlov mentions an invitation to a large exhibition of Leningrad artists at the Museum of Contemporary art of Armenia (Modern Art Museum of Yerevan, at that time capital of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic) (p. 4-55).  The organisers of the exhibition possibly saw Kozlov’s works at the Second TEII exhibition. A note from August 1983 may relate to this forthcoming exhibition: “Timur: 5-6 drawings for the exhibition in the South” (p. 4-91). It is not known whether Kozlov’s works were actually represented at the exhibition.

– The Third TEII Exhibition, 5-25 August 1983, at Leningrad’s Kirov House of Culture. The line-up of artists in the TEII book, p. 117, doesn’t include Kozlov’s name, but according to the notes, he visited it on 13 April and also mentions two events for 14 August at 12.00 o'clock (p. 4-87) – a happening with American jazz musician Paul Horn (1930-2014) and the Zero movement (Novikov / Sotnikov), as well an Aquarium concert. Since Paul Horn’s name is crossed out, I decided to find out more and wrote to David Friesen, who toured the Soviet Union with Paul Horn in 1983 and who promptly answered my message:

From an email by David Friesen, Oct. 2016:

    Yes, a performance did take place on August 14th 1983 in Leningrad. There were no other musicians playing the concert other than Paul Horn, Robin Horn (Paul’s son), John Stowell and myself. There may have been a jam session in the afternoon at the same venue where a couple of Leningrad artists were sitting in and playing with us, but I cannot remember any names, nor am I positive that a jam session even took place. I do know there was one city where a jam session did take place, but I can’t remember if it was Moscow or Leningrad.

Besides, Paul Horn and his musicians weren't the only American free jazz group who played in Leningrad in 1983. The same year, the Rova Saxophone Quartet also toured the Soviet Union and, with the permission of the KGB, played an unofficial concert at Leningrad’s Dostoyevsky Museum. Saxophone Diplomacy, a documentary of the tour, is available on vimeo.




by Hannelore Fobo, June 2022

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Published 19 June 2022
Last updated 30 June 2022