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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 1. Reflections on art and creation|
|Chapter 2. Impulses for art|
|Chapter 3. Leningrad artist groups and exhibitions|
The foundation of the New Artists in 1982
|List of artists, writers, and musicians|
Chapter 2. Impulses for art
An important aspect of Kozlov’s approach to art has been his willingness to absorb highly different visual stimuli. They fill a large reservoir of ideas and concepts of which some are actually realised in a painting or drawing. Thus, the collages displaying illustrations from Soviet and international newspapers he started creating sometime in the 1980s inspired him to several motifs of his "New Classicals" cycle from 1989/1990 more>>. Like his own photography, they have constituted “tangible” resources for his works.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Diary I, pp. 04-05, with transcription and translation
His diaries document another potential source: “live” impressions, such as observations made on the streets of Leningrad – a city he defined in the following way: “I've always had the feeling that it's not a city, but a theatre and that the people are actors.” (p. 2-52). I already quoted the example of the “Leningrad” cinema and Tauride Garden Greenhouse in the previous chapter, but there many other references to Leningrad’s architecture, for instance, “The USSR Bank building on the Griboyedov Canal. Facade, centre”. (p.1-04). As a matter of fact, architecture is crucial in a more general way:
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Diary I, second title page with transcription, translation and notes
But Leningrad, Russia’s northern capital, had much more to offer. On one of the first pages of each diary, we find relevant information on the city’s main art institutions. It allowed the artist checking the closing day of the Hermitage (Monday), which was different from that of the Russian Museum (Tuesday). The Hermitage is also mentioned with Henri Matisse’s “Red Room” displayed at the famous “third floor” – Impressionist and Cubist painting, in the main from the nationalised Shchukin and Morozov collections (p. 2-08). In Diary I, the “Cinematography” cinema, which showed international productions, including art-house films, appears with a telephone number with two different extensions – tickets for screenings were extremely difficult to come by. Likewise, there is a telephone number of the Central Exhibition Hall which offered the opportunity to get familiar with international trends. In 1983, there was an exhibition of West German artists, and he noted the names of Lüpertz, Middendorf, Baselitz, and Kiefer, each with the title and year of a painting (p. 4-68). Oddly enough, they are listed below Viktor Vasnetsov’s monumental painting from 1904 “The Last Judgement”. In 1983, the painting was restored in Leningrad to be reinstalled at Saint George Cathedral in Gus-Khrustalny; perhaps Kozlov mentioned it because of a connotation to Lüpertz’ “Apocalypse”.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Diary IV, pp 68-69 with notes
Last but not least, three Moscow exhibitions are also documented. The legendary Moscow-Paris exhibition at the Pushkin Museum, follwing the 1979 Paris-Moscow exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, has an entry on page 2-65. It was the Soviet Union’s first extensive presentation of Russian and Soviet avant-garde (Malevich, Tatlin, Lebedev, Mayakovsky, Lissitsky, Kandinsky, Chagall…) as well as French avant-garde. Kozlov doesn’t remember whether he actually went to see it, but Catherine Mannick remembers that she showed him the French catalogue in 1979, when they first met, as she had visited the exhibition in Paris before travelling to Leningrad.
Exhibition Moscow-Paris 1900 to 1930.
Andrey Rublev is an artist Kozlov has always held in high esteem, and in autumn 1982 he visited the Andrey Rublev Museum at Moscow’s Andronikov Monastery (p. 3-44). In June 1983, the Italian-Armenian painter Gregorio Sciltian (1900-1983) had a solo exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery, and on page 4-83 there is a list of thirteen of his paintings Kozlov photographed. The vintage prints have been preserved in his archive, each completed on the reverse with its title and year, taken from the list.
Extending over three pages, tables resuming the development of styles from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries, including the battle between "Poussinists" and "Rubenists", show Kozlov’s systematic approach to art history. Artists mentioned are Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velazquez, David, Goya, Degas, Ingres, Renoir, and Manet (pp.3-56-58).
But such a historical review is actually an exception. Most artists appear in different contexts, some just with their name, others with the title of a work, or, as in the case of Erich Heckel, juxtaposed with that of another artist, Marc Chagall, one of Kozlov’s favourite artists (p.4-38). His interest in Chagall’s art was so profound that he translated, in the summer of 1983, the entire text of an album on Chagall’s works published in English. Translating word by word with the help of a dictionary was a challenge, but he did so again some years later, when he got a copy of Art After Midnight: The East Village Scene, Steven Hager’s book on the New York club and art-scene from 1986.
American art is present with Richard Estes and Philip Pearlstein, both known for their (photo)realist paintings (p. 4-75). Their names appear in an entry from June 1983, next to those of Marc Chagall and David Hockney. At that time, Jean-Michel Basquiat, another one of Kozlov’s favourite artists, was just starting his international career and probably still went unnoticed in the Soviet Union. But Kozlov’s interest in the New York art-scene is obvious with a reference to Greenwich Village, “New York's neighbourhood of antiques, art, and bohemia” (p.4-57).
Among artists related to the Russian culture, there are, apart from Viktor Vasnetsov, Alexander Drevin (shot in 1938; p. 2-69) and Mihail Shemiakin (exiled from the Soviet Union in 1971; p. 2-29), while Kusma Petrov-Vodkin and Pyotr Konchalovsky are quoted with some books they wrote as art historians, next to art collector Alexei Sidorov (p. 4-27). Efim Chestnyakov (1874-1961) is mentioned with an exhibition at the Central Exhibition Hall (p. 4-71). The works of Leningrad artist Alexander Arefiev influenced some of Kozlov's fellow artists (p. 4-54). Leningrad artists from Kozlov’s circle are discussed in the next chapter.
In addition to visual impulses, textual and musical impulses come from writers and musicians. Although their influence might have been of a more indirect nature, the number of writers is quite impressive. Here are some of them: James Joyce, Irwin Shaw, Iris Murdoch, John Gardner, Giacomo Leopardi, Vladimir Nabokov, and Georges Simenon. Often, they are quoted with a book, while some others, like Ivan Bunin (p.2-68) or Lion Feuchtwanger (p. 3-46), are quoted with a fragment from a novel, or, in the case of Nabokov, with a poem. In most cases, names of foreign writers and their books are written in Russian, which means that they had been translated and could be read by Russian readers. Like those of the artists, these names appear predominantly in Diaries III and IV.
On pages 4-04-05 is what looks like a “must read” list. Kozlov wrote all names and titles in Russian, while I have used the original spelling and titles, but without quoting all books. The list is actually an extended version from a shorter list in Diary III displaying the names of Huysmans, Proust, and Sarraute (p. 3-70).
Thomas Mann: Doktor Faustus
Marcel Proust: À la recherche du temps perdu (and two more)
Nathalie Sarraute (without references to books)
Edmond de Goncourt: Chérie (and one more)
Guy de Maupassant: Fort comme la mort
Georgy Ivanovich Gurdjieff (without references to books; see note on p. 2-26)
Marina Tsvetaeva: Поэма конца / The Poem of the End; Крысолов / The Ratcatcher (two poems)
Andrey Bely: Моска / Moscow (and one more)
Musicians make up a smaller category. Here we find Johannes Brahms (p. 3-11) and Heitor Villa-Lobos (p. 3-68). With the exception of Stevie Wonder, whose name is III next to Alphonse Mucha’s in Diary (p. 3-84), pop and electronic music appear in Diary IV, in June and later, that is, shortly before of Kozlov stops writing his journal entries. Not surprisingly, it is the West that sets the standard: Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, Kraftwerk, Steve Reich, Devo, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft. From the same period, but undated, is a pad with a compilation of seventeen tapes, A and B sides, of rock, jazz and blues music, among them Pink Floyd, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea, Carlos Santana, James Brown, Ray Charles, Chicago, Isaac Hayes, and Led Zeppelin. As a matter of fact, Kozlov’s knowledge of Western music was quite extensive, as tape recorders were commonly used to distribute the music of those rare vinyl records some people were able to collect.
Fashion and style have always attracted the artist’s interest. One of the notes mentions fashion designer Pierre Cardin, composer Rodion Shchedrin and dancer Maya Plisetkskaya with their collaboration for the ballet The Seagull, staged at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1982 (p.3-17; it actually had its premiere in 1980). To Kozlov, haute couture expressed not only impeccable taste, but also a continuous renewal of style.
Taken together, there are almost one hundred names of artists, writers and musicians – not including those of Kozlov’s artist friends. By and large, these names constitute what may be called a classical canon of the educated person.
Yet it would hardly make sense to assume that they were all equally important to Kozlov. We know from experience that quite often, we write down a piece of information simply as memory aid. For instance, the name of Wilhelm Lehmbruck appears in the context of an exhibition at the Hermitage (p.3-74). The name of Marc Chagall also appears in the context of an exhibition at the Hermitage – a presentation of new acquisitions of prints (p.4-76) – but this is Chagall’s fourth of a total of five mentions in Kozlov’s diaries, which gives this artist a different weight.
For the sake of clarity, I should emphasise that impulses and stylistic influences must be kept apart; they aren't the same. Although Chagall has always been important to Kozlov, in Kozlov’s large body of work, stylistic similarities to Chagall’s painting can only be seen in two small landscape paintings on paper from 1982. I discussed this question in an article from 2020, “Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos, Chapter 5. The inclusion or exclusion of stylistic influences” more>>.
On the other hand, we may take note of something for a reason we don’t even remember. I was rather puzzled when I came across the name of Julio Iglesias, the Spanish crooner, standing next to that of David Hockney (p. 3-34). Did Kozlov feel that they were similar in their artistic expressions? Or, quite the contrary, that they were standing in opposition to each other? When asked, he couldn’t tell me the reason for mentioning Iglesias. At any rate, it would be wrong to assume that he was a great fan of his music.
Although it is tempting to speculate on specific names, it makes more sense to consider them in their entirety, that is, as a list of artists, writers and musicians who, in Kozlov’s understanding, deserved attention – to different degrees and for different reasons. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that only these and no one else caught his attention. Put differently, if the "list of impulses" includes certain names, it doesn’t follow that it excludes all others. The picture gets more complete when there are other sources, like the pad with the tapes or Kozlov’s large photo archive from those years. One of the pictures from 1978 displays a wall of his “Galaxy Gallery” studio decorated with magazine pages and postcards. They show works by Van Gogh, Klimt, Dali, Chagall, symbolists, impressionists, religious painting, Hans Holbein’s portrait of Georg Giese, an aerial view of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC and a picture of a British beefeater (a ceremonial guard of the Tower of London).
Galaxy Gallery. Kozlov's flat and studio in Peterhof, wall section with art reproductions.
While such additional information is certainly helpful, is still impossible to reconstruct a complete “list of names” for this period – or any other period, for that matter. However, what is interesting about the names appearing in Kozlov’s diaries is not only the fact that they represent, in the main, European culture, which naturally includes Russian names, but that they read with a natural flow, as if the person compiling such a list had been unaware of any political borders.
Hannelore Fobo, June 2022
Published 19 June 2022
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