(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
Exhibition Moscow-Paris 1900 to 1930.
Pushkin Museum, Moscow, 1981.
Located at the far end of the hall is a reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin's project for the Monument to the Third International (1919-1920)
Photo: Hans Kumpf 1981
Chapter 5. The inclusion or exclusion of stylistic influences
Establishing influences constitutes the art historian‘s “daily bread”. It is common grounds to argue that “so-and-so or such-and-such influenced so-and-so and that produced such and such”. The problem with this argument is not whether it is true, but – as I tried to show in the previous chapter – to determine in which way it can be said to be true. Thus, it is true that the Russian avant-garde of the early twentieth century had an impact on the New Artists. Evgenij Kozlov’s work alone covers a number of names: Lissitsky, Malevich, Mayakovsky, Lebedev, Popova, Rodchenko, and Stepanova. The list is non-exhaustive for the New Artists, and I will be more specific with regard to Larionov in the next chapter.
Besides, if we add Alexander Deineka to the list of avant-garde artists, we may also include that veiled (and somewhat florid) socialist eroticism much appreciated by Georgy Guryanov, for instance in Deineka’a paintings of sportswomen and sportsmen. In the (late) 1980s, Guryanov pursued the graphic style of Deineka’s posters and mosaics, and in the 1990 he turned to Deineka’s painterly style of socialist realism, but essentially, he remained true to his favourite motifs of female tractor drivers, parachutists, sailors, boxers and athletes, many being self-portraits. Perhaps the most obvious stylistic borrowing from Deineka is in Guryanov’s composition from 1996 displaying six young women – gymnasts – holding up a flower wreath.
Although Guryanov’s painting is far from being a copy of Deineka’s “Escape” from 1944 – girls in sport dresses running up a river embankment after swimming – it shares a number of features with Deineka’s composition, especially the choice of colours and the eroticism of movements; in both paintings, we see one of the women in an identical semi-profile posture accentuating her bust.
Of course, correlations do not prove a course-effect relationship, and I do not know which other sources Guryanov used, at least I think he must have used several. Guryanov, however, succeeded in fusing his personal style with his love for rave culture, and he added a Mayday logo on top of the flower wreath. His painting became the poster for the 2014 Mayday edition of in Dortmund.
Admittedly, quoting Deineka‘s socialist realism style among the avant-garde styles relevant for the New Artists may be questionable, because we might then just as well add another artist to Guryanov’s sources: Alexander Samokhvalov, who was definitely not an avant-gardist. But we may be more subtle, arguing that Guryanov came to Deineka’s painterly style of socialist realism only in the nineteen nineties, while the nineteen eighties, he was close to Deineka abstract avant-garde style; after all, it is the nineteen eighties that interest us here in the first place. Yet this lengthy discussion might be just splitting hairs. On the whole, as I see it, Guryanov’s predilection for muscular bodies and poses makes a case for a pop-art version of academic art rather than for avant-garde art.
Ideally, to find out any native avant-garde influences, we would also have to eliminate all non-native avant-garde influences, like, for instance, a hypothetical influence of Matisse on Kozlov’s cut-outs discussed in Chapter 4. Matisse’s paintings Dance and Music (both 1910) were displayed at the Hermitage and Kozlov was quite familiar with them , but did he know Matisse’s cut-outs?
Matisse’s famous album of cut-outs “Jazz” entered the collection of the Hermitage in 1968, but I don‘t know whether it was displayed in the 1970s or 1980s. Perhaps Kozlov knew these works from reproductions?
Having access to important museums and international contacts, both Leningrad and Moscow artists had much better opportunities to assess the history of art in general and contemporary art in particular than Soviet artists living in other parts of the country . But such a general remark doesn’t explain much. We would much prefer to rely on documentation that goes beyond personal recollections.
With regard to Kozlov – who, from his early childhood, was a regular visitor to both the Hermitage and the Russian Museum – some information about his artistic preferences is available from his own visual and written documentation. Thus, several of his black-and-white photographs from 1978 show reproductions of paintings he pinned to the wall of his studio “Gallery Galaxy”, among them pages from a Dutch art magazine displaying paintings by Van Gogh, Klimt, Dali and Chagall. There are some postcards with works by symbolists, impressionists, and religious painting, Hans Holbein’s portrait of Georg Giese, a picture of a British beefeater – a ceremonial guard of the Tower of London – and an aerial view of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC. One of Kozlov‘s own works completes the artistic arrangement.
It is quite possible that Kozlov received these pictures through his correspondence. Leningrad University offered language courses for foreign students from so-called capitalist countries, and as early as the mid seventies, Kozlov started meeting with American students and exchanged letters with them. The letters he received often contained art postcards, and Kozlov would send back small drawings or even paint on the envelope.
Among his early acquaintances was Jane Sharp, today a Professor in the Department of Art History at Rutgers University specialised on Russian and Soviet Art. Sharp acts as Research Curator of the Dodge Collection at the Zimmerli Art Museum, and it seems that this is where the drawings Kozlov sent her can be found today. (Addendum 2023: Since 2022, Kozlov‘s correspondence with Catherine Mannick, lasting from 1979 to 1990, is part of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University more >>.)
An important source of information are the diaries Kozlov kept between 1980 and 1983 more >>, from which I have already quoted several passages illustrating the artist’s reflections on his own works and on the creative process in general. To this he sometimes added sketches and ideas for titles of works.
Other entries refer to metaphysical concepts like that of Plato or of George Gurdjieff’s esoteric writings, or to his interests in literature, art, and music (domestic and foreign), as well as to exhibitions (national and international). But we also learn about facts from Kozlov’s daily life, such as his encounters with friends. Although Kozlov didn’t keep the notes in a systematic way, they show us the variety of impulses stimulating his creative imagination.
I will restrict myself to an entry concerning the international and the national avant-garde simultaneously: the emblematic exhibition Moscow-Paris 1900 to 1930 that took place at the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, from 3 June to 4 October 1981.
Moscow-Paris was the follow-up exhibition to Paris-Moscow at the Centre Pompidou, 1979, and it was the Soviet Union’s first extensive presentation of Russian and Soviet avant-garde (Malevich, Tatlin, Lebedev, Maykovsky, Lissitsky, Kandinsky, Chagall…) as well as French avant-garde.
Kozlov had a chance to examine the French catalogue in 1979 – one of his American acquaintances, travelling to Leningrad via Paris, showed it to him. It must have left an impact on him, since he mentions the Moscow exhibition in an entry written between the first and the eighteenth of August 1981:
МОСКВА – ПАРИЖ
Администратор Дом Графики
/рядом с музеем А. С. П. /
за 30 мин. До начала сеанса
расписание сеанса: 10:30, 12:30, 15:30, 17:30.
Moscow–Paris / Administrator House of Graphic Artists / next to the Puskhin Museum / 30 min. before the beginning of the session
Schedule of sessions: 10:30, 12:30, 15:30, 17:30.
The reference to the schedule of sessions lets us assume that Evgenij Kozlov planned not only to visit the exhibition, but also to attend one of the sessions. Whether he actually did the diary doesn’t inform us, although it is possible that he was among those 644 028 visitors the exhibition reported .
I will not attempt to give a full picture of the art Evgenij Kozlov was familiar with at the beginning of 1980s, as this would go beyond the scope of my research. But let’s assume we know what Kozlov knew: that still doesn’t tell us about the importance of a specific artist. I will now look at the subject of native roots from a different point of view – artists who haven’t left an impact on Kozlov’s style, although he was perfectly familiar with their works.
This is the case with Marc Chagall, one of Kozlov’s favourite artists then and now. Kozlov mentions him a number of times in his diaries, and his interest in Chagall was actually quite profound. In the summer of 1983, he was working as a guard with one shift of 24 hours followed by two days off, watching a compound with tractors and other machines (and, if necessary, chasing away thieves). Sitting in a small booth, he would spend most of his working time translating word by word, with the help of an English-Russian dictionary, a Marc Chagall art book he had received from the US . Kozlov’s manuscript, a unique manifestation of his love for Chagall’s works, might still exist in his Peterhof flat .
Yet E-E assured me that he identifies no more than two of his works with Chagall’s style – two small gouache and watercolour drawings from 1982, naïve sceneries inspired by his 1982 summer vacation at Sintsovo, his mother’s village in the Kostroma oblast. Besides, during the two weeks he spent there, he already started translating the Chagall book. Perhaps in the future some art historian will come to a different conclusion and find other traces of Chagall in Kozlov’s work.
 Until 2014, when the paintings from the former Sergei Shchukin collection (Picasso, Matisse and other French artists) were transferred to the General Staff Building of the Hermitage Museum, they were displayed at the main building’s legendary third floor section displaying modern French painting. Kozlov mentions “Matisse’s hall” in his diary from 1980: Дворцовая площадь. Вид из Эрмитажа. Окно 3-его этажа. Зал Матисса. = 16:00
Page 2-08, http://www.e-e.eu/Diaries/index2.html
 See Fobo, Hannelore. Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists. Chapter 4: The Leningrad subculture of the 1980s, paragraph Knowledge of Western trends, 2018. Web 20 August 2020.
 Kozlov, (E-E) Evgenij. Diary II, page 2-65, August 1981. Web 20 August 2020.http://www.e-e.eu/Diaries/index2.html
 Irina Antonovna i piat’ znakovykh vystavok GMII (Irina Antonovna and five emblematic exhibitions at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts) [Ирина Антонова и пять знаковых выставок ГМИИ], undated article, ca. 2016
Культура.ру / culture.ru, Website of the Russian Ministery of Culture. Web 20 August 2020.https://www.culture.ru/materials/96126/irina-antonova-i-pyat-znakovykh-vystavok-gmii
 There is an addendum to the story: Looking up from the book, a drill ground across the street caught Kozlov’s attention: soldiers were given instructions of what to do in case of a nuclear attack. A metal sculpture of a mushroom cloud served as demonstration model. Kozlov completed a number of drawings of this bizarre object.
 Some years later, Evgenij Kozlov undertook a similar project, translating Steven Hager’s 1986 book Art After Midnight: The East Village Scene. See Chapter 10.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020