(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Exhibitions >>
|(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov's Participation in the Second TEII Exhibition (1983)
in His Diary and Photographs
Text: Hannelore Fobo, 2021
previous page: Synopsis and TEII article (2007)
next page: Chapter 1. Exhibition views
Table of contents: see bottom of page >>
Photo: Catherine Mannick.
TEII, Leningrad’s Society for Experimental Visual Art (TEII), (ТЭИИ – Товариществo экспериментального изобразительного искусства, 1981-1991) was created by ‘unofficial‘ artists to organise group exhibitions on a large scale. After a first exhibition in October 1982 at the Leningrad’s Kirov House of Culture, the TEII planned its second large or ‘general’ (общая, obshchaia) exhibition for April 1983 at the Leningrad Palace of the Youth ( Ленинградский дворец молодёжи, ЛДМ, Leningradskii dvorets molodezhi, LDM). The TEII was primarily a members’ organisation, but since the Soviet system didn't recognise its legal status, it had no right to issue membership cards, and it was not allowed appear as an official organiser of its exhibitions either. Therefore, all exhibitions were given some neutral title – in this case, ‘Exhibition of Works of Visual Art’ – and the TEII’s ‘general' exhibitions were numbered retrospectively.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov was one of the first signatories of the letter to establish the TEII in 1981 (Kovalsky et al., TEII, pp 49/50). Although he didin't join as a member, he was invited to participate in this exhibition, and then participated in most general TEII exhibitions until the late 1980s. In all likelihood, the Second TEII Exhibition was the first major public display of Kozlov’s art, ‘major’ meaning the display of at least seven works, and ‘public’ as opposed to private, like the Letopis exhibition in February 1981 at Timur Novikov's place more >>.
In this article, I will examine how the artist selected, through various stages, the paintings and works on paper to be exhibited. Written and visual material from Kozlov's archive provide the researcher with a rare opportunity to follow the complex process of decision taking. The material is compiled from various sources, in the first place from Kozlov's diary and the artist's own reproductions of his works анд reproductions by Alexander Boyko, as well as several exhibition views I recently received from Catherine Mannick, USA (Chаpter 1).
Invitation to the Palace of the Youth, Leningrad (outside)
Invitation to the exhibition (inside)
In Diary IV, the discussion starts in late February 1983, on pp. 11-15 (pp. 4-11-15), with several lists of works ‘to be presented to the committee for the exhibition at the Palace of the Youth’. These lists, which include up to six paintings and ten works of paper, demonstrate that the artist approached the question with great care. Reflections about what to include in the selection or exclude from it continue on pp. 4-29 to 4-57 – almost up to the very opening on 5 April 1983. Analysing these notes, I created eight lists, which complete, but also (partly) supersede each other (Chapter 2, Chapter 3).
Kozlov’s search for a new artistic language (‘language of the future’, p. 4-40) led him to a new stylistic approach in painting towards the end of 1982. With the limited space available for the display of works, the question he asked himself was what to show an audience unfamiliar with his works – ‘old’ works or ‘new’ works?
The answer was just as complex as the question. He came to the conclusion 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’ (p. 4-29). Yet the final selection did include two paintings from 1981, and most ‘new’ works were only seen at later TEII exhibitions, in spring more >> and autumn 1984 more >>.
Besides the attention Kozlov gave to the selection of works as such, he also had to take into consideration the role of the municipal exhibition committee, gorodskoi vystavkom. 
While the TEII elected its own exhibition committee to select works, the task of the higher-ranking municipal ’vystavkom’ – which inlcuded, among others, members of the KGB – was not curatorial, but to censor images and titles considered to be religious or anti-Soviet propaganda and pornographic works of art. (Kovalsky et al., TEII, p. 249). With some of the works selected, Kozlov indeed risked censorship, but in his diary, he mentions the municipal exhibition committee without discussing its impact further. It was obvious to all participating artists anyway, especially after the scandal created at the first TEII exhibition, when Ivan Sotnikov and Timur Novikov added a label to a hole in a movable wall, thus declaring it be another exhibit – the ‘Zero Object’. When the municipal exhibition committee checked the exhibits prior to the opening with the help of the list from the TEII exhibition committee, it demanded the label of this uncertified ‘work’ to be removed. This led to a lengthy dispute between Sotnikov and Novikov on the one hand and Sergey Kovalsky, one of the leaders of the TEII, on the other hand. Kovalsky rightly feared the consequences of such mischief for TEII's further activities. A massive act of censorship by the municipal vystavkom took place at the 8th TEII Exhibition (May 1986) which wasn't opened to the public. With regard to E-E Kozlov's work, there is an example of censorship at the 6th TEII Exhibition (1985). It concerned his photo-collage polyptych ‘Good Evening Gustav’ more >> which he presented with a a Russian title, ‘Посвящение Густаву’, A Dedication to Gustav (Kovalsky et al., TEII, p. 611). Giving it a Russian title didn't help; besides, some months later, at the exhibition ’Happy New Year’ at the Leningrad Rock (December 1985), one of Kozlov's paintings was rejected on the grounds that it displayed an English text more >>.
In short, the role of the municipal exhibition committee must be born in mind, although it is not clear to which extent, if at all, it influenced Kozlov's selection of works. Exhibition views of three paintings and three works on paper (Chapter 1) document the result of Kozlov's reflections – and a remarkable spectrum of styles.
Chapter 4 presents three works on paper from The Peterhof Book of Hours series (1982), painted on pages from a nineteenth century book of prayers, while Chapter 5 establishes parallels between this series and the Homilies of Gregory, an illustrated Byzantine manuscript from the late ninth century. Two landscape paintings from 1981 (Chapter 6) are from what Kozlov himself defined as his ‘Russian period’ – rounded, abstract shapes filled with pastel tones, assimilating the tradition of Russian folk art. A painting from 1983, ‘WASP’, marks the transition to semi-realistic compositions including elements of pop art, with subjects depicted from unusual perspectives (Chapter 7).
To understand the selection, just as important as the works displayed are the works the artist removed from the exhibition before the opening – ‘House’ and ‘Double Painting’. They are discussed in Chapters 8, 10, and 11. Chapter 9 presents the reasons for his decision with an extract from Diary IV. Chapter 10 juxtaposes ‘House’ with ‘The Strike Brigades Had Their Own Musicians’, a painting related to ‘WASP’ in terms of style, but to ‘House’ in terms of subject matter. A comparison of the works demonstrates that Kozlov was not just looking for a new subject, but for a novel approach to it. Chapter 11 continues the history of ‘House’ and ‘Double Painting’, as they were both transformed into essentially new compostions no later than 1987, and also given new titles, 'Minor Target Shooting’ and ‘Oile’.
There is yet a another style or, rather, technique, that appears in Kozlov's work for the first time – painting with stencils. Harking back to the ROSTA Windows from the 1920s, Kozlov designed a personalised exhibition poster with the stencils he created for his painting ‘Sit Venia Verbo. Traditions of the XX Century’ (1983). The rectangular hole in the upper half of the poster and the double figure left to it with “0” prints on both hands are an allusion to Novikov's second ‘Zero Object’ mentioned in Diary IV on p. 4-29. I discussed this poster in a previous article more >>. The poster is another proof of the significance Kozlov gave this exhibition. On the last day of the exhibition, 20 April 1983, he collected thirty-five signatures of forty-three participating artists more >>.
In this way, the Second TEII exhibition provides an insight into the fast evolution of Evgenij Kozlov's stylistic approaches at the beginning of the 1980s – an evolution driven by the desire to find a ‘language of the future’. In Chapter 12, the concluding chapter, I will regard the impact of this period on Kozlov's later works.
Last but not least, I include a note on what is not the subject of the present article – the question of possible influences of works by Kozlov's fellow artists on his own works, or vice versa. I didn't consider this question because I don't hold it to be particularly relevant with regard to the works discussed in this article.
On the one hand, the question may be rejected on formal grounds. The period from 1981 to 1983 marks a transition – from the Letopis group Evgenij Kozlov left with Timur Novikov to form the New Artists together with some other artist friends. The New Artists were a more informal group than the Letopis group and gradually expanded in the course of the 1980s. 1982 is generally regarded as the New Artists’ founding year, following the scandal with the Zero Object at the First TEII Exhibition. In my understanding, it is difficult to speak of a New Artists group identity already at the time of the Second TEII Exhibition, although discussions of works with fellow artists were important for Evgenij Kozlov, as the diary entries show. Yet the ‘New Artists’ consolidated as an artist group later, in the years between 1984 and 1986, which was the main period of their common activities (see new Artists periodisation). In my opinion, when examining cross-influences, the period from 1984 and 1986 yields more interesting results than the previous one.
On the other hand, regarding Kozlov’s works, I argued in a more general way for the entire period of the New Artists group (1982-1989) in an article from 2020, The New Artists. Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos. I came to the conclusion that ‘Kozlov’s stylistic versatility and the diversity of those subjects and themes he chose for his works not only brought a certain heterogeneity into the New Artists’ body of works. They also question the cliché that an art group progresses in a synchronistic manner.’ more >>. Perhaps what can be said is that some of Kozlov's stylistic approches anticipated those central to Novikov's Neoacademic group a decade later – in the first place semi-realistic painting. For Novikov personally, religious motifs became pivotal in the 1990s, although in a more conventional way than for Kozlov in th early 1980s.
It goes without saying that numerous artists had an impact on E-E Kozlov’ works. He was certainly not a naive painter, and he knew the works of the great masters; the names of Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velazquez, David, Goya, Degas, Renoir, Manet, and others appear in his diary see Chapter 7. Yet to Kozlov, the first and foremost criterion in art has always been the novelty of a work in combination with its meaning. It is the question of what a specific artist has achieved for art as such – a question concerning artists of the past and contemporaries alike. But essentially, it is a question he seeks to answer through his own art, and in this aspect, he has remained a ‘New Artist’ all his life.
 The New Artists MMOMA catalogue (Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, p. 271) mentions Kozlov’’s name for a group exhibition at the Kirov Institute of Textile and Light Industry, Leningrad, some months earlier, on 25 November 1982 – obviously a one-day exhibition – but Kozlov’s participation in this show is not documented otherwise. Besides, he didn’t mention it in his diary either, which could be expected had it been of any significance to him, since in his diaries (1979-1983), he refers to several other exhibitions, including some where he didn’t participate himself.
 Тhe municipal exhibition committee (городская выставочная комиссия, gorodskaia vystavochnaia komissiia, shortened ‘gorodskoi vystavkom’) was a division of Leningrad's Main Department of Culture – Главное Управление Культуры Ленгорисполкома, Glavnoe upravlenie kultury Lengorispolkoma.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, June / July 2021
Uploaded 18 July 2021