Evgenij Kozlov: B(L)ACK ART 1985 - 1987 page 3
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CCCP – USA (1986)
Evgenij Kozlov burned the approximately two-meter-high 1986 painting CCCP - USA (not to be confused with the 1987 painting of the same name) in the presence of his friend Slava Mogilevsky not long after its completion. This picture shows two figures, one behind or on top of the other, the rear figure clasping the front one.
The image has been preserved only as a black-and-white photograph, in which the attribution of legs to bodies is uncertain. It is clear, however, that the front figure is overpowered by the rear one, and the embrace is more of a stranglehold. The postures of the figures make this painting reminiscent of the 1986 graphic B(L)ACK ART with its explicitly sexual connotation: the man standing behind the woman. In CCCP – USA, however, the figures have a multifaceted nature. They symbolise a relationship with a man-woman polarity, and, according to the picture’s name and inscriptions on several symbols, they also represent the relationship between the USSR (the ball or the globe) and the USA (the rocket). There is also another cosmic aspect to the work: the upper figure wears a sharp-edged ring around its waist that resembles the rings of Saturn; the front figure’s head, which we see at an angle from above, looks like a globe with a flattened North Pole.
This diversity of meanings is intensified by the fact that we recognise the struggle of polarities, yet are left in the dark regarding which of the figures is the man and which the woman; which is the USA and which the CCCP. The extraordinarily detailed environment of the two figures gives us no additional clue, but increases the intensity of the impression. The numerous smaller figures appear to want this fight and may even have provoked it. As with poltergeists, chaos and destruction seem to be their element that they enjoy with malicious delight.
When asked why he had burned this attractive painting, Evgenij Kozlov remarked that he had gone a step too far with this depiction of the struggle.
The aspiration of art is not the actual destruction of polarity, but the shaping of polarities. In other words, the artist is able to shape the polarity in such a way that the actors – earthly or cosmic forces – enter into a relationship that is not destructive (Точки Соприкосновения / Points of Contact, 1989)..
He specifically dealt with this topic in the 1988 series ART iz CCCP – ART dlya USA (ART from the USSR – ART for the USA). Such transformation, however, is not subject to the absolute will of the artist. One of Evgenij Kozlov’s photographs from this series shows two pregnant women in profile, each holding a sign in front of the other’s head. Their free hands are clasped as if they are greeting each other with a handshake. One sign reads “USA”, the other “CCCP”. The picture symbolises the promise of a fruitful relationship. As a matter of fact, this promise was not fulfilled. Both women suffered miscarriages.