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Hannelore Fobo

Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists

October 2018

page 6Neoexpressionists and New Artists

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page 6Neoexpressionists and New Artists

Suppose we date the New Artists emergence to 1982, then It is still difficult to say what exactly happened up to the collective exhibition in summer 1984 at the ASSA gallery I documented in detail (Novikov, Kozlov, Sotnikov , Khazanovich, and Kotelnikov more >>).

The chronicle lists a first exhibition of the New Artists for November 1982, naming those same five artists. It took place at the Leningrad Institute of Textile and Light Industry (Institut tekstilnoi I legkoi promiyshlennosti im. M.S. Kirova / Институт текстильной и легкой промышленности им. М.С. Кирова) (New Artists, 2012, p. 271). Pictures in Ivan Sotnikov’s photo archive documenting this exhibition only allow to identify works by Novikov, Sotnikov and Khazanovich. Yet is not at all clear whether it was indeed a New Artists exhibition, as one of the photos is a group portrait including some other artists, but neither Kozlov nor Kotelnikov.

In his “Happy New Year” catalogue, Novikov mentions this 1982 exhibition at the “L I T L P named after Kirov” (Л И Т Л П им. Кирова) with three artists – himself, Sotnikov and Khazanovich. Yet he mentions this exhibition only one page 6, with his personal biography, and not among the general New Artists exhibitions he listed on page 2. Works of these three artists might have been part of a 1982 TEII exhibition at the same venue. The TEII book mentions such an exhibition on page 629, without giving further specification. The discrepancy remains: Kozlov and Kotelnikov are listed with this exhibition in the chronicle, but not in Novikov's “Happy New Year” catalogue. Andreyeva also refers to three artists, not to five (Brushstroke, p. 33). On the other hand, Kozlov indeed remembers having participated at an exhibition at this venue. My conclusion is that the chronicle entry needs further verification.

The chronicle dates the next New Artists exhibition – called “The Second Exhibition of the New Artists group” – to summer 1983. The lineup is Novikov, Kozlov, Ovchinnikov, Khazanovich, Bugaev and Kotelnikov. The year corresponds to Novikov’s list printed in the New Artists Anthology on page 99. This list does not mention any first New Artists exhibition, but it mentions a second exhibition for 1983, without an artists’ lineup. I have not seen any pictures documenting this exhibition, and likewise the origin of the chronicle lineup is unknown to me.

Ekaterina Andreyeva argues that Novikov, in his “Anthology” list, might have implicitly counted as the first exhibition the one at the Leningrad Institute of Textile and Light Industry (Brushstroke, p. 33). This is a possible explanation and seems to be the reason why Ksenia Novikova included such a first exhibition in the chronicle. But it still contradicts Novikov’s entry in the Happy New Year catalogue,

Here is the catalogue list of the first exhibitions with a translation:

0. 1. 1983. ГНХ “АССА” / N[ew] A[rtists] G[roup] “ASSA”

1. 2. 1984. ГНxХ “AАСCСAА” / N[ew] a[rtists] A[rtists] G[roup] “AASSSAA” more >>

2. 3.1985. TК81 “Балет трех неразлучников” / T[heatre] C[lub] 81 “The Ballet of the Three Inseparable Ones more >>

3. 4.1985. TК81 “Анна Каренина” / T[heatre] C[lub] 81 “Anna Karenina”

4. 5.1985. ГНХ “АССА” / N[ew] A[rtists] G[roup] “ASSA”

5. 6.1985-1986. “С Новым Годом” / “Happy New Year” more >>

The exhibition from 1983 really seems to have been a zero – non-existing – exhibition, because on the same page, Novikov gets more specific: “The first took place at the ASSA Gallery, just as the fourth, the second and the third during the ‘New Theatre’” (Первая проходила в галерее «АССА», как и четвертая, вторая и третья во время Нового театра.) more >>. Novikov dates both New Theatre exhibitions to 1985 and one exhibition to 1984. As I have written above, such an exhibition is documented for the ASSA Gallery in summer 1984 more >>. Accordingly, it must have been the first.

In other words, 1983 might have seen none, the first or the second New Artists exhibition. Whatever the case, without additional documentation of the 1983 group exhibition at the ASSA Gallery, I remain sceptical that such a zero exhibition actually took place.

This doesn’t mean that at that time, in 1983, the artists mentioned in the lineup – Novikov, Kozlov, Ovchinnikov , Khazanovich, Bugaev and Kotelnikov – weren’t in close contact with each other, as pictures from Kozlov’s photo archive demonstrate. We also read their names, at least some names – Novikov, Sotnikov, and Ovchinnikov more >> – in Kozlov’s diaries lasting from 1979 until summer 1983. But Kozlov’s pictures and notes document them in the company of many other artists, too. The question therefore is to what extent New artists identified themselves with the New Artists group at this early stage.

Some light is shed on the question by the so-called “Meeting of the Expressionists”, documented by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov. It took place at Arkady (Allen) Tager’s studio in 1983. At least, 1983 is the year it is commonly dated, although one of the pictures in Kozlov’s photo archive is dated 1984. The meeting included two representatives from the older generation – Solomon Rossin and Boris Koshelokhov – and seven from the younger generation: Nataliya Batishcheva, Arkady Tager, Timur Novikov, Ivan Sotnikov, Vadim Ovchinnikov, Oleg Kotelnikov and Evgenij Kozlov. The Brushstroke catalogue has a picture on page 33. Note that Kozlov isn’t in this picture because he took it. He is, however, present in other pictures taken at this meeting.

Among these nine “expressionists”, seven also participated at the New Artists’ “Happy New Year” exhibition in December 1985, which will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter. Yet of these seven, only Tager actually participated at “Happy New Year” as an expressionist, and Batishcheva as a “primitivist”. The other five, having been named “Expressionists” at Tager‘s studio in 1983 or 1984, were (again) New Artists in 1985. Here is the quote from Novikov’s essay “The celebration of Arts” (text no 3); note that “Solomon Rossin” is Albert Rozin’s pseudonym.

    Unfortunately, the New Expressionists – a particularly strong group in Leningrad (B. KOSHELOKHOV, E. FIGURINA, A. ROZIN) – couldn't participate as planned. From this group, only Arkady TAGER remained, but the New Artists unfolded to their full extent.

The situation is getting confusing. It turns out that at the “Meeting of the Expressionists”, the presence of three expressionists – Tager, Rossin, and Koshelokhov –, turned six others also into expressionists, Batishcheva and five New Artists: Novikov, Sotnikov, Kozlov, Kotelnikov, and Ovchninnikov. Let’s assume that Ovchinnikov became a New artist later, but Novikov, Sotnikov, Kozlov, Kotelnikov are considered to have been New Artists founding members in 1982.

On the other hand, Tager didn’t loose his attribute as an “expressionist” in the constellation of the New Artists at the “Happy New Year” exhibition in December 1985, but at least he was a New Expressionist. A more difficult question is that of defining Nataliya Batishcheva, as she never showed her works regularly with either group. In “The celebration of Arts” (text no 3), Novikov calls her a “primitivist“, but in this way she only represented herself. Her position has remained somewhat “loose” or undefined. In his typescript catalogue of the “Happy New Year” exhibition” (edited in 1986), Novikov decided to no longer worry about the Tager’s and Batishcheva’s position. He was succinct and to the point: “Not only New Artists were persuaded to join the exhibition, but two guests, as well”. (К выставке привлечены не только новые художники, но и двое приглашенных.) more >>

One of the reasons Tager published his book on the New Artists in 2010, “V budushchee voz’mut ne vsekh” (Not All Are Taken Into The Future / В будущее возьмут не всех) was to assign to Nataliya Batishcheva her due place in history among the New Artists. Alas, the way he balanced accounts with Novikov was so biased that he achieved the exact opposite.

Yet, it cannot be denied that the congruency of so many artists at the “Meeting of Expressionists” and the ‘Happy New Year’ exhibition is anything but accidental.

Novikov felt strongly committed to expressionist Koshelokhov, the founder of the Letopis group, and mentions him in many of his texts. Novikov joined Letopis in 1977 “and experienced Boris Koshelokhov’s quite strong influence” (Timur, p. 127, text 10). He later “inherited” Letopis from Koshelokhov and continued it until he founded his own group in 1982, the New Artists. According to Ekaterina Andreyeva, both Novikov and Ovchinnikov were Koshelokhov’s pupils, and Ovchinnikov also Rossin’s. Likewise, Kotelnikov held Rossin in high esteem (private email from 1 November 2018). In other words, the lineup of participants was not accidental.

In his interview with Arkady Tager on February 27, 2010, Ivan Sotnikov gave an account of the “Meeting“ which, as he remembered, was called to decide upon a joint exhibition. He even remembered a poster Evgenij Kozlov designed for this exhibition, executed in ten identical copies and handed to each of the artists (number ten was for neo-expressionist Elena Figurina, also a former Letopis member, who was not present at the meeting). Sotnikov very much regretted that the Department of Culture refused their application to receive premises for the ‘Expressionist’ exhibition. (V budushchee voz’mut ne vsekh page 65) Although I am somewhat sceptical with regard to the authenticity of Tager’s transcription of the interviews contained in his book, Ivan Sotnikov’s account seems to be plausible. Should Kozlov’s posters ever turn up, we will have more information.

Seen in this light, the first sentence of the “Happy New Year” catalogue text makes sense: “Готовилась Выставка «С НОВЫМ ГОДОМ» три года и является пятой выставкой новых художников.” / The exhibition “Happy New Year” has been prepared for three years and is the fifth exhibition of the New Artists.

“Happy New Year” fulfilled, at least in part, the role of a belated “Expressionists” exhibition, but at the end of 1985, when it was finally carried out, the New Artists had already consolidated as a group and other participants simply became “guests”.  

It therefore seems logical to consider the period between late 1982 and the first half of 1984 – that is, up to the first documented New Artists solo group show at the ASSA Gallery in summer 1984 – as a time of “group building” in parallel to Novikov's emancipation from Bob Koshelokhov's expressionism. Whether those five New artists present at the “Meeting of the Expressionists” Novikov, Sotnikov, Ovchinnikov, Kotelnikov and Kozlov” were indeed all committed to expressionism, is a different question.   

[Addendum 21 November 2023. A document from Ivan Sotnikov's archive, now part of the Garage Archive Collection, provides more information about the original line-up of artists Ivan Sotnikov referred to, and it also confirms the assumption that the "New Artists" consolidated as a group in the course of 1984/1985. The document, dated 1st September 1983, is called Заявление в Главное управление культуры Исполкома Ленгорсовета о проведении выставки группы художников / Application to the Main Department of Culture of the Executive Committee of the Leningrad City Council on holding an exhibition of a group of artists. It holds the names of ten artists: Koshelokhov, Rozin, Figurina, Kozlov, Ovchinnikov, Tager, Batisheva, Novikov, Sotnikov, Kotelnikov External link >>. Their attempt to receive official permission for this exhibition, planned for 1984, obviously failed. By the end of 1985, when the group of artists was finally able to carry out their plan on the premises of the Leningrad Rock Club, the “New Expressionists” Koshelokhov, Rozin, and Figurina had left the project – “couldn't participate as planned”, as Novikov wrote in his article “The celebration of Arts”. Instead, "New Artists" Bugaev, Cherkasov, Khazanovich, Krisanov and Yufit joined in. In this way, New Expressionist Tager and (Primitivist) Batisheva became guests to a "New Artists" exhibition.]

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© Hannelore Fobo, uploaded 29 October 2018

Last updated 21 November 2023