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The New Artists • Новые художники
Kirill Khazanovich, Oleg Kotelnikov, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Timur Novikov, Ivan Sotnikov
ASSA Gallery • Timur Novikov's studio on Voinov Street, Leningrad (present-day: Shpalernaya Street, Saint Petersburg)
ASSA Gallery, New Artists exhibtion 1984. Works by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Hannelore Fobo, May 2017. Last updated 2022.
ASSA Gallery – Timur Novikov’s studio on Voinov Street >>
The 1984 exhibition of the New Artists >>
The New Artists: ‘Wildness’ and ‘Anarchy’ >>
The ‘Biography’ of the Exhibits. >>
The past years have seen a number of publications about the New Artists, Leningrad’s most prominent avant-garde group of the 1980s. Among them are two comprehensive catalogues for the retrospective exhibitions ‘Удар кисти / Brushstroke‘ at the Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, 2010, and ‘Новые художники / The New Artists’, at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA), 2012. Both exhibitions were curated by art historian Ekaterina Andreyeva, an eminent scholar in the field of late Soviet art, who also made the main contributions to the catalogues.
These catalogues present an excellent overview over the activities the New Artists and make us understand how the ‘New’ were active in the most various fields, developing art techniques, creating performances and music. Timur Novikov, Ivan Sotnikov, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Kirill Khazanovich and many others not only participated in a large number of exhibitions, but found ways to organize such exhibitions independently, despite their difficult situation as ‘unofficial’ artists.
Yet, none of these or other publications has specified a single exhibition with all works displayed. In other words, we do not know what exactly was shown when and where. In this regard, Timur Novikov’s typed list of works for the exhibition ‘Happy New Year’, which opened at the Leningrad Rock Club on 27 December 1985 more>>, is an exception.
Ekaterina Andreyeva published this list in an abridged form in the Brushstroke catalogue (page 58, English edition, translated from the Russian by Thomas Campbell). However, the original list seems to be incomplete. In her message to me from 8 May, 2017, she confirmed that at least two of the works documented in Evgenij Kozlov’s pictures of the exhibition – Novikov’s ‘Airport’ and Ivan Sotnikov ‘Cosmic Flights’ – are not part of Novikov’s list. Novikov compiled it after the exhibition, and this might explain such discrepancies. But it is still surprising that he forgot about his own work, and we may only speculate about his reasons for including or not including a work into the list.
Since speculation will not lead us to facts, there is no way to get around the painstaking work of reconstructing the exhibitions of the New Artists. There can be no doubt that determining all works in an exhibition will help to carry out a more detailed analysis of an artist’s body of works, or, with respect to group exhibitions, to understand how the artists might have related to each other‘s works at a given moment in time. In the first case we could speak of a vertical timeline and in the second of a horizontal timeline.
One such attempt to reconstruct an exhibition is made here. This article presents a comprehensive documentation of the 1984 New Artists exhibition which took place at Timur Novikov’s studio on Voinov Street, better known as ‘ASSA Gallery’.
The exhibition had a total of twenty-seven paintings and collages by Kirill Khazanovich (3), Oleg Kotelnikov (7), (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov (11), Timur Novikov (2), Ivan Sotnikov (3) and a joint work by Kotelnikov/Sotnikov.
As I have not found this exhibition documented elsewhere, I cannot indicate its title, but will refer to it as The New Artists’ 1984 exhibition at the ASSA Gallery or simply ‘the 1984 exhibition’.
In fact, The ASSA Gallery was more than an exhibition space. It provided the artists with the basic infrastructure for their shared activities and thus became crucial to their identity as a movement or group.
This documentation will therefore highlight some organisational or technical aspects of the gallery and the exhibition, including the subsequent ‘biography’ of the exhibited works, of which many are now in important collections. I wish to thank Ekaterina Andreyeva, who contributed with information about several works and their present owners, and Oleg Kotelnikov, who confirmed the authorship of his works.
In other words, I will propose no more than a general stylistic classification of the twenty-seven works, although with respect to (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov’s works I will also refer to information given on other pages of this website.
The documentation was carried out using Kozlov’s large photo archive from the 1980s. His photo archive consists of several thousand pictures, mostly black and white 35mm negative films and their corresponding contact prints, as well as a large number of vintage prints. Kozlov developed and printed the films himself, and he subsequently used these prints for his collages and other works. A characteristic feature of his pictures is the combination of photography with drawing or writing: in many instances, he scratched the negative emulsion while processing the film. These patterns complete the motif and are an integral part of it, and Kozlov reproduced them in his paintings. An example is his painting ‘Shark’ (1988), where he combined such abstract designs with figurative painting (Georgy Guryanov, Igor Verichev, Timur Novikov and others), achieving a highly complex composition more >>.
Since Evgenij Kozlov had been an active member of the New Artists throughout their seven years of existence (1982-1989), a large part of his pictures show their numerous activities, thus presenting us with a view from the inside – an artist’s view. In this way, his photos are important not only for understanding his artistic ideas and his work as a whole, but as a source for researchers on this exceptionally productive period in Russian art. I described their ‘twofold nature’ in my article from 2010 Evgenij Kozlov’s Photographs in his art of the 1980s. more >>
This ‘twofold nature’ also applies to the transfigured realism or neo-realism of his portraits, inspired by his photos and carried out in a large variety of techniques. While they make Kozlov a ‘new’ artist in the full sense of the word, they also constitute an impressive gallery of artists and musicians who changed Leningrad’s creative atmosphere over thirty years ago. In 2016, Kozlov's photographs and paintings – among them portraits of Timur Novikov, Georgy Guryanov, Igor Verichev, Oleg Kotelnikov, his ‘Self-Portrait with Red Eyes˚ and ‘Shark’ – presented the heroes of the second Russian avant-garde at the Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, Poland, at the exhibition ‘Notes from the Underground’, a large survey on East European art and music under communist rule. more >>
Kozlov printed photos in considerable numbers and generously shared them with his friends. They have been reproduced as posters, in magazines and in books, including the two catalogues mentioned above – although, when coming from other archives, his authorship is not always indicated, especially in earlier publications. However, the larger part of his archive has yet remained unpublished.
The present publication is a first step to carry out a systematic analysis of this material within a broader context. Being able to freely question the author of an archive is a privilege, and Evgenij Kozlov’s answers have significantly helped me to establish the results of this study.
I have, of course, greatly benefitted from earlier research, especially from the information presented in the catalogues ‘Brushstroke’ and ‘The New Artists’.
At the same time I hope that my research will benefit other scholars and help them to pursue the scrupulous work of establishing dates and other details regarding the activities of artists and musician affiliated, in one way or another, to the New Artists.
ASSA Gallery – Timur Novikov’s studio on Voinov Street
In the exhibition catalogue "Новые художники / The New Artists", Ekaterina Andreyeva writes
Novikov succeeded in creating an anarchist movement that operated according to the rules of professional art communities. In 1980, he turned his room in a communal flat on Voinov Street, 24 (present-day Shpalernaya), then in process of resettlement before major renovations, into ASSA Gallery, an exhibition hall and squat for artists and musicians whose windows faced the so-called Big House (local KGB headquarters) and where hence curtained.
The process of the communal flat becoming the ASSA Gallery was in fact gradual. Prior to founding the New Artists as a group in 1982 (together with Ivan Sotnikov), Novikov used his room in the communal flat for exhibitions of the Letopis group, of which he was a member. Novikov invited Kozlov, also a member of Letopis, to join the New Artists as a founding member. In this way, Kozlov's photos document Novikov's studio during both periods. This allows us to track the expansion of the premises during the 1980s – with a certain degree of accuracy for the first half of the 1980s and a lesser degree of accuracy for last two years. 1987, more precisely, June/July 1987, marks the close-down of the ASSA Gallery, as the place had to be left for renovation. (In an earlier of this article version I erroneously stated 1989 as the year of its closure).
Pictures from two Letopis exhibitions (Kozlov's personal exhibition on 24 February, 1981 more >> and a group exhibition with Elena Figurina, Evgenij Kozlov, Timur Novikov, and Bob Koshelokhov in March 1981, possibly also including Nina Alekseyeva and Leonid Fedorov more >>) show that at that time all paintings were displayed in Novikov's small room of which any available surface was used, including the cupboards.
Kozlov knew this room well: since Novikov regularly spent the nights at his mother's apartment, Kozlov would sleep there when it was too late to take the train to the Leningrad suburb of Peterhof, where he had his studio/apartment ‘Galaxy Gallery’.
Over the years, as the other tenants of the flat were resettled and their rooms became vacant, Novikov started using those rooms for exhibitions and other artistic activities, while keeping the ‘Letopis’ room as his private studio.
In his lecture given at the Saint Petersburg University on January 24, 2001, Novikov said about the gallery that it was ‘a huge flat consisting of eight rooms, in part still used as communal flat, in part already empty. We had about six rooms, two of which were used as gallery space, three were for artists, where guests would stay and parties took place.
The rooms were located on both sides of a long corridor which was also integrated into the exhibition area. The opening sequence of Aleksei Uchitel’s movie “Rock“, released in 1988, shows the corridor with artists and members of the ‘Kolibri band’ entering the corridor through different doors.
Even the kitchen became a venue for performances see floor plan >>. Pictures show the ‘Fashion Show’ performance in late 1984, when Kozlov invited his ‘models‘, dressed in fur coats, to balance on gas cookers.
When did the name ‘ASSA Gallery’ appear for the first time? ASSA had multiple uses, and I will discuss them in the last chapter of this article, together with E-E, the other ‘sound label’ of the New. Here is Evgenij Kozlov’s statement from an interview with Artchronika, 2010:
Timur’s studio on Ulitsa Voinova [Voinov-Street] always remained a studio for me. When we made an appointment, it was always in Timur’s studio, not in the ASSA Gallery. more >>
As a matter of fact, although the use of ‘ASSA’ was recurrent in that period, I haven’t been able to find it in connection with ‘gallery’ – ‘ASSA Gallery‘ – in any written document from that time. The articles Timur Novikov wrote in the 1980s (both published under his own name and under his pseudonym Igor Potapov) have no mention of it, nor do two posters created for exhibitions at Timur Novikov‘s flat, which could be seen at the New Artists exhibition at the MMOMA in 2012. One poster announces the Second Biennale of Timur Novikov's Portraits, 1982 (The New Artists, p. 15), and the other one Oleg Kotelnikov's solo show, December 1983. Both state ‘Главное управление ноль-культуры’ or ‘ГУНК’ as organizers, which translates as General Directorate of Zero Culture. ‘Zero Culture’ refers to Novikov / Sotnikov’s ‘Zero Object’ from 1982, a key concept of Novikov's idea of new art, but the name is also a parody of Soviet institutions such as ‘Главное управление по делам литературы и издательств’ / The General Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press, the official censorship and state secret organ. Given the vicinity of the Leningrad KGB headquarters to Novikov’s communal flat on Voinov Street, this makes sense.
On the other hand, Kozlov wrote ‘в галерее АССА’ / ‘in the ASSA Gallery’ on the reverse of several photos, but then again, the writing looks as if he had done this later, perhaps in the 1990s, when ‘ASSA Gallery’ had become an established name for this place.
Being as it is, I will stick to this name, with the restriction of exhibitions prior to 1982 – the ‘Letopis’ period. In her ‘chronicle’ published in ‘The New Artists’ catalogue (pp 271 – 289), Ksenia Novikova, Timur Novikov's widow, also listed those exhibitions as events at the ‘ASSA Gallery’. 
The 1984 exhibition of the New Artists
The year 1984 saw many activities by the New Artists and their friends, such as the start of the New Theatre performances more >> or the Stilyagi (dandy) party more >>, recreated in Kozlov’s famous leporello collage ‘Good Evening Gustav’ more >> (according to Ivetta Pomerantseva, the party took place in October or November 1984, before or after the first Leningrad Pop Mekahnika concert on November 19, 1984). The same year, Kozlov also actively created two such events at the ASSA Gallery with one photo shoot with the KINO band (Viktor Tsoy, Georgy Guryanov, Yury Kasparyan and Aleksander Titov) more >> and the above mentioned ‘Fashion Show’ towards the end of the year (Natalya Turik/Nazarova, Katya Selitskya, Gasya, Timur Novikov, Evgenij Kozlov, Oleg Kotelnikov, and Yurik Tsirkul) more >>. He integrated a number of ‘Fashion shots’ into his collage triptych (1984), now in the collection of the Russian Museum more >>, and used the KINO series for the cover of their LP ‘Nachalnik Kamchatki’ (1984) more >> and the large KINO collage (1985) more >>.
A different case are the pictures he took at the 1984 exhibition of artists affiliated to the ‘New‘ from an early stage: Timur Novikov, Ivan Sotnikov, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Kirill Khazanovich (in later years, the number of artists would grow almost infinitely, as Novikov wished to turn the group into a large movement).
Kozlov mentioned this exhibition in his interview with Artchronika, 2010,
I do not remember the date of the first exhibition, but in my opinion there was a quite important one in 1984. more >>
At the time, I published the interview with several pictures from the exhibition. However, most photos of the 1984 exhibition have now been published for the first time.  They are from two different negative films and one colour slide film. Again, we can observe their double character as art objects and documents. Kozlov’s initial intention might have been to provide a documentation of the exhibited works and their presentation, similar to his pictures on the Letopis exhibition 1981. But he went further and asked Novikov to take poses, and posed himself. Unlike those pictures displaying only artworks, most of the ‘figurative’ photographs possess the specific ornaments of the negative scratching technique. Subsequently, he used three of them in his collage triptych more >>. In the 1990s, he enlarged another one to a size of 100 x 189 cm, and painted it in 2008.
Kozlov took the pictures prior to the opening of the exhibition: some show his works still sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall, while those of the other artists were already installed. This explains why Novikov and Kozlov are the only artists present.
We may suppose that Kozlov had just brought his works from his Peterhof studio. In picture E-E-pho-Y008 (a print with no negative preserved), we see him discussing them with Novikov, probably deciding on how to display them. The picture might have been taken by Lena, better known by her Nickname "Sheka", the third person present during the photo shoot more >>. (In an interview with Misha Buster published on kompost .ru, Garry Assa calls her на тот момент фиктивная жена Новикова / at that time Novikov's wife of convenience more >>). This picture is one of few vintage prints from this series in Kozlov’s archive, and it is partly coloured with green ink.
If we assume that Evgenij Kozlov took pictures of all exhibited works, we can reconstruct the exhibition: it consisted of a total of twenty-seven works displayed in two connecting rooms of equal length but different width – possibly the only available rooms for the ASSA Gallery at that time. Their sizes were approximately 5 x 3m and 5 x 4m, respectively, each with a window on a small side. The large room was without a door to the corridor and therefore accessible only through the small room.
The small room had works by Oleg Kotelnikov and Ivan Sotnikov. Entering the door from the corridor, the visitor was struck by a huge ‘Portrait of Kovalsky’, Kotelnikov / Sotnikov's joint work from 1983 or 1984. This portrait concealed the window entirely small room >>. The entrance to the large room was through a door to the right. The window side of this room displayed Kozlov's works, and the opposite wall, separating the room from the corridor, a large diptych by Kirill Khazanovich. Kazanovich'es works and a painting by Kozlov were also on the wall opposite the door. Left of the door was Kozlov's collage ‘Deutschland’ and to the right, two works by Novikov took the space between the door and Khazanovich'es diptych. (large room >>; see floor plan and exhibition plan >>)
One of Evgenij Kozlov's colour slides (E-E-pho-XA02, more >>) offers a different view of the corner with Kirill Khazanovich'es diptych and Novikov's paintings: Novikov is sitting on a mattress, holding some magazines in his hand. Next to him is a table with his second Zero Object from 1983 as table top and four legs attached to it. This part of the large room, somewhat concealed from view, was the area where Novikov would receive guests. Picture E-E-pho-BS35 shows Novikov carrying out the mattress to empty the floor space in expectation of exhibition visitors more >>. The table might have remained in the room; in this case it would have been the twenty-eighth work in the exhibition.
Compared to other pictures of the ASSA Gallery in Kozlov's archive, the exhibition provides an almost ‘classical’ idea of a gallery. Everything is arranged with care: the rooms are clean, the wallpaper is unpainted, and the works are displayed at regular intervals. The idea of having the works interacting with each other is also quite obvious. Artists' works were hung according to stylistic criteria such as closeness and contrast. Closeness goes for Kotelnikov and Sotnikov, both using a graphic, primitivist style, while contrast applies to the room with Kozlov's elaborate compositions, Khazanovich'es geometrical letter patterns and Novikov's bright landscape paintings.
Novikov’s classical approach to arranging an exhibition is also confirmed by Yury Tsirkul (Krasov), who remembers Oleg Kotelnikov’s 1983 solo exhibition: The pictures were hung graciously, and they were illuminated with floodlights […] a classic of the genre. (Brushstroke, p. 32)
In other words, the early ASSA exhibitions seem to have been a ‘classic of the genre‘, and what looks like signs of ‘anarchy’ in other pictures of the ASSA Gallery might have been the result of a growing number of activities – of leftovers from painting and partying.
The New Artists: ‘Wildness’ and ‘Anarchy’
When Ekaterina Andreyeva states The first aesthetic category of the Leningrad zeroists was “wildness” (Brushstroke, p. 35), such ‘wildness’ represents, in the 1984 exhibition, only one of many aspects of the New Artists‘ highly individual artistic styles; in fact, the variety of styles presents each artist as a master in his own field. First and foremost ‘wildness’ was true for Oleg Kotelnikov’s neo-expressionist painting, while the antipode – attentiveness – was represented by Evgenij Kozlov’s transfigured realism. In our private correspondence, Andrey Khlobystin called this aspect of Kozlov's art ‘neo-romanticism‘. Ekaterina Andreeva refers to it as ‘strict style’, asserting that Timur Novikov departed from ‘wildness’ under the influence of Kozlov’s strict style (The New Artists, p. 44). She dates Novikov’s re-orientation to the year 1986, but it might be said more generally that Kozlov paved the way for Novikov’s turn to Neo-Academism in 1989.Timur Novikov‘s paintings from 1984, however, display ‘wildness’ only to a certain degree. It is indeed possible to arrange all exhibited works on a scale ranging from wildness to attentiveness. We then obtain the following sequence: Kotelnikov-Sotnikov-Novikov-Khazanovich-Kozlov.
Oleg Kotelnikov played on this polarity with his painting from 1985 ‘It‘s Cool’, which he signed ‘E-E. Козлов’, that is ‘E-Е. Kozlov’ (The New Artists, p. 168). With its neat arrangement of musicians playing on stage, it is a charming painting, but can hardly be mistaken for one of Kozlov’s compositions; it undoubtedly remains Kotelnikov’s ironic comment on what he might have considered – at least at that point – an excess of care in Kozlov’s aesthetics. It is also interesting that in 1991, Kotelnikov and Kozlov were both invited to Hamburg’s International Kampnagel Summer Festival as Leningrad artists representing opposite positions in visual art; yet at that point Oleg Kotelnikov had started to pursue a clean, conceptual approach to art, while Kozlov had done a number of remarkably ‘wild’ paintings after 1984.
To a larger degree than painting, ‘wildness’ and ‘anarchy’ describe New Artists’ performances, especially during Sergey Kuryokhin's Pop Mekhanika concerts, where the New participated from 1985 on. Pictures from Kozlov’s archive show a first Pop Mekhanika concert in late 1984 (or early 1985) with KINO, Strange Games, Akvarium and maybe other bands, but without artists or paintings on stage. They present a rare view of Viktor Tsoy dressed in a suit and a tie.
In contrast, Tsoy performs as an artist in Kozlov’s pictures from the Pop Mekhanika concert at the Rock Club on 29 December 1985 (by other accounts on December 27). Together with other artists and musicians, he paints on a huge piece of textile directly on stage. Towards the end of the spectacle, the painting was literally sliced into pieces, and the photos convey the joyous anarchic atmosphere which turned everything into a big happening. The New Artists catalogue has a list of artists who took part in the action painting: Oleg Kotelnikov, Vladislav Gutsevich, Timur Novikov, Sergei Bugaev, Andrei Krisanov, Yevgeny Yufit, Nikita Alekseev, and Nikolai Ovchinnikov. The list misses Viktor Tsoy, Georgy Gurianov, Igor Verichev, Inal Savchenkov, Evgenij Kozlov and some others we recognise in Kozlov's pictures, but perhaps it refers only to the fragment that was saved by Sergei Shutov and is now in his collection. (New Artists, p. 272)
However, in most cases artists would bring along their works to Pop Mekhanika concerts and hang them on different walls, as a sort of ‘stage decoration‘. These paintings were often executed as joint works, using light materials such as plastic or textile, which were easier to install, and bright colours, to be seen from afar. The pictures of the Pop Mekhanika concert at the Palace of the Youth, 1986, display several works on textile far above the stage. The ASSA Gallery with its vast number of walls and floors proved to be an ideal site for producing such pieces prior to a concert, and this certainly contributed to ‘anarchic’ look of the place.
We are lucky to have a number of vintage prints from Kozlov’s archive presenting the ASSA Gallery around the time of this concert. The prints are undated, but one of them has Timur Novikov holding a huge inflatable dinosaur – now deflated – which he had carried around on stage; during the concert, the dinosaur completed the ‘zoo’ of animals: an inflatable snake and a living goat. This allows us to date the prints roughly to 1986 (perhaps somewhat earlier or later, but definitely after the 1984 exhibition).
The pictures convey an atmosphere that fully corresponds to the terms ‘wildness’ and ‘anarchy’. A wall between two rooms seems to have been partially knocked down, presumably a division wall that had supplied the communal flat with extra rooms. Its wooden beams and other debris lie across the floor, and a long piece of textile with graffiti spans from one side of the wall to the other.
We see works by Novikov, Kotelnikov, Kozlov, Krisanov, Bugaev, and Sotnikov in various rooms. Pieces of furniture and mattresses adorn the interior, and some smaller and larger sketches are also found on the walls. But the majority of paintings are rather large, painted on textile and fixed directly to the wall, – often quite negligently. An example is Kotelnikov’s nude displayed in the corridor, with an inscription in big blog letters Портреты художника Котельнкова / Portraits by Artist Kotelnikov. Generous folds partly conceal the letters.
It is not difficult to imagine the impact the place made on a visitor, moreover on a foreign visitor from the West, ready to confront communism, but not expecting an artists’ squat opposite the Leningrad KGB building. To be fair, it must be said that Kozlov’s black and white prints are stained, which enhances the effect of chaos.
In fact, not everything is chaotic: Novikov’s works are displayed quite accurately (among them are his collage ‘Airport’ and a ‘Horizon’). Again, it is Kozlov’s painting, a large portrait of Georgy Guryanov on semi-transparent jute, that represents the opposite of wildness. A year later, the Swedish cultural attaché preselected this portrait for a large exhibition of the New Artists in Stockholm (1988) more >>, but instead it ended up in an legal ownership dispute between Bugaev and Kozlov in 2013 more >>.
Is impossible to say whether or not the 1986 display of works corresponded to any particular exhibition, but if it did, it was certainly quite different from the ‘classical’ 1984 exposition. As we have seen earlier, Novikov said 2001 that he kept two rooms for exhibitions (see footnote 1), or he might have cleared them for such purposes. In Kozlov’s 1986 photos, we see one room that had preserved a clean atmosphere, displaying but one work by Ivan Sontikov, a fish collage.
Yet, I can tell from my own experience how difficult it is to run an artist’s studio as a gallery over several years. In the 1990s Evgenij Kozlov and I operated his Berlin studio Russkoee Polee / The Russian Field as an exhibition space more >>, but as the number of his paintings increased, we had to stop arranging exhibitions for other artists. At one point, it simply became too exhausting to clear large spaces for their work.
Although Kozlov almost never participated in joint works for stage decorations, he used the premises of the ASSA Gallery for one large work: in 1985 he sprayed a graffiti work on paper – "Я-Я / Ya-Ya", about 4.50 m long more >>. It was displayed at the ‘Happy New Year’ exhibition, and Novikov refers to it in his exhibition text ‘Неожиданно выглядел Евгений Козлов на гигантской черной бумаге’ Evgenij Kozlov looked quite unexpected on a huge piece of black paper.‘ (Праздник искусств’ / The Festival of Art, in: Новые художники / New Artists, An anthology. Petersburg, 1996, p. 91) Pictures taken at the Rock Club show the New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev as well as Evgenij Kozlov posing on it. more >>
Even so, paintings shown at concerts weren't necessarily produced spontaneously: at the New Artists' Festival at the Sverdlov House of Culture in April 1988, Kozlov displayed three large paintings with transformed Soviet symbols; the paintings were fixed left, top and right of the stage. Kozlov had meticulously planned their geometrical lay-out and carried them out at his studio ‘Galaxy Gallery’ at Peterhof – including CCCP, which was about four metres long and had to be painted on two adjacent walls.
Dating the exhibition
Those few 1984 exhibition vintage prints that (still) exist in Kozlov's photo archive are signed but not dated on the reverse. However, the exhibition date can be established differently, as imprints on the film negatives help to get an approximate idea. Soviet films normally had imprints of the year and month of production near the perforation. Here, the films are imprinted ‘11 Svema 1 84’ and ‘10 Svema 1 84’, respectively, which means that they were both produced in 1 (January) 1984 and sold during the following months (11 and 10 being serial numbers). Their archive’s film inventory numbers are now BS (seventeen negatives) and BT (five negatives). BT has another three pictures before the photo shot at the ASSA Gallery, which means that BT actually comes before BS. These three pictures show two friends taking a sunbath, and it can therefore be said that the exhibition took place some time in summer 1984. ‘Summer’ also corresponds to Kozlov’s light clothing, and ‘1984’ corresponds to his works – none is from 1985. The other negatives of both films are lost, so that there is no other clue regarding the month.
A photograph by Edygey Niyazov with Vadim Ovchinnikov sitting next to the ‘Portrait of Kovalsky’ (Brushstroke, 2010, page 32) could help: Sotnikov‘s ‘Skull’ is still sitting on the floor, whereas Kozlov's picture E-E-pho-BT23 shows the ‘Skull’ hanging on the door more >>. Since Niyazov's photo has rather unspecific captions – the picture is dated ‘mid-1980s’ –, no further conclusions can be drawn from this photo.
The 1984 ‘Chronicle’ does not even list this exhibition; instead, it has an undated exhibition entitled "Collages of the New Artists" with Vadim Ovchinnikov, Evgenij Kozlov, Kirill Khazanovich, Oleg Kotelnikov, Timur Novikov, Andrei Krisanov, and Sergei Bugaev, (The New Artists, p. 272). In his interview with Artchronika from 2010, Evgenij Kozlov also includes Vadim Ovchinnikov into the 1984 exhibition of the New Artists, but although Niyazov’s photo speaks in favour of Ovchinnikov’s participation, no works by Ovchinnikov are documented in Kozlov’s pictures.
To augment the confusion, the 1984 ‘Chronicle’ also has Evgenij Kozlov’s solo exhibition dated ‘autumn’ (The New Artists, p. 272), but no photos from Kozlov's archive document such a solo exhibition. This is astonishing. Given the importance Kozlov attached to his exhibitions, we would have expected him to document it.
On reflection, it isn’t clear whether, within the 1984 group exhibition, Evgenij Kozlov's works actually constituted an exhibition of their own – his solo exhibition mentioned in the ‘Chronicle’. In this case, the other artists‘ works would have remained from a previous exhibition. There are several arguments in favour of such a view.
First of all, as mentioned earlier, Kozlov's photographs present the works by Kotelnikov, Khazanovich, Sotnikov, and Novikov already installed on the walls, unlike his own, which we see him discussing with Novikov before hanging them. Second, the number of Kozlov's paintings and collages exceeded the number of works by any other artist, and third, they were presented in a rather compact area.
A picture that is no longer in Kozlov’s own archive, but was reprinted in Ekaterina Andreyeva’s book from 2007 ‘Тимур. Врать только правду!’ (‘Timur. Only lie the truth!’, 2007), might give a clue. The captions state ‘Произведения Е. Козлова на выставке в галерее «АССА», 1980-е. Фото Е.Козлова. Архив Т. Новикова’ – Works by E. Kozlov at the exhibition at the ASSA Gallery, 1980s. Photo by E. Kozlov. T.Novikov’s archive.
The photograph shows Timur Novikov lying on the floor next to Kozlov’s works from the 1984 exhibition. Kozlov asked Novikov to hold his arms close to his the body while looking at the ceiling. The flat, motionless figure creates a strange effect on the viewer, which is further enhanced by a special technique Kozlov applied in the print process: the floor around Novikov’s body is lighter than in other areas, and the body contours are slightly blurring. Novikov looks like an extra-terrestrial being, transferred into an alien space.
Apart from its artistic value, this picture is interesting for us with regard to the display of Kozlov’s works. Works in the window area and to its right correspond to the pictures of the BS series. We recognize the painting ‘Vox Humana’, the five small collages, and the collage that later became CCCP. However, in the place of 21 AVE USA from the BS series is his painting SIT VENIA VERBO. Traditions of the Twentieth Century more >>, and instead of Commissars we see Petrodvorets. Red Avenue. more >> Both paintings are from 1983, and Novikov donated them to the Russian Museum in 1991.
It thus turns out that Kozlov exchanged a number of his paintings – at least two –, in part for new collages he discussed with Timur in picture E-E-pho-Y008-op more >>. Most likely, the new display is his ‘solo show’ succeeding his ‘group show participation’, while the ‘group show’ still continued.
Following this line of thought, the undated exhibition ‘Collages of the New Artists’ might have been the ‘follow-up’ exhibition to the group show, integrating Kozlov’s and Kotelnikov’s collages. It appears that there weren’t always strict divisions between single exhibitions – works might have remained on display after the ‘official’ end of a show, being re-integrated into the new display.
Regarding the dating of the 1984 exhibition, we will leave it dated summer 1984, at least for the time being. It may well be that among the vintage prints Kozlov offered his friends we will find exhibition views that that are dated, for instance in Timur Novikov's or Ivan Sotnikov’s archive. What is more, we have seen that these archives also hold such pictures that are no longer found in Kozlov’s own archive – as is the case with the picture just discussed. Further research in these and other archives could support or contradict the assumption of a ‘permanently rotating’ exhibition.
The ‘Biography’ of the Exhibits.
The ASSA Gallery had a specific feature which strengthens the assumption that exhibition displays were changed or renewed only in part.
It was, of course, different from any commercial Western gallery, simply because there existed no privately owned commercial galleries in the Soviet Union. But it was also different from other unofficial, non-commercial exhibition spaces that appeared somewhat later, during the Perestroika period, such as the N-Ch / V-Ch.
It was different in that artists had the possibility to leave their works at the ASSA Gallery in ‘temporary custody’ after exhibition ended. Here is Kozlov’s comment on the situation from the Artchronika interview, 2010:
Even when artists displayed their works elsewhere and were subsequently in need of storage space, the ASSA Gallery offered a solution. In this way, it turned into a sort of temporary artists' museum, with Novikov becoming its director. Here is an example: Kozlov's collage triptych, displayed at the Goroshevsky theatre during the New Theatre performance The Ballet of the Three Inseparable Ones (1984 or 1985) more >> was donated by Novikov to the Russian Museum in 1991 without ever having returned to Kozlov.
But it is equally true that artists' works parted from Novikov's gallery to other exhibitions. Novikov's studio became a ‘reservoir’ of available works, as the works documented in the 1984 exhibition will show.
Among these works, no less than five could be seen in two group exhibitions of the TEII in 1984 and 1985, respectively. TEII, the ‘Society for Experimental Visual Art’, was one of the platforms the New Artists used to promote their art. ‘No less than five’ means that there might have been more than five. От Ленинграда к Санкт-Петербургу / From Leningrad to Saint-Petersburg, the large book published on TEII exhibitions by The Museum of Nonconformist Art (Saint-Petersburg) in 2007, offers selected installation views. A study of the complete documentation of both TEII exhibitions will answer this question.
Three of the works were displayed at Facets of Portraiture, the Fifth Exhibition of the TEII, which took place at The Kirov Palace of Culture from 17. 9. to 8. 10. 1984 – Kozlov's Commissars more >>, Kotelnikov / Sotnikov's Portrait of Kovalsky, and Sotnikov's Concert. The TEII publication has the Portrait of Kovalsky on page 159 and Concert on page 160; the latter is wrongly attributed to Solomon Rossin.
Another two could be seen half a year later at the Leningrad Palace of the Youth, during the Sixth Exhibition of the TEII, 19. 3. to 12. 4. 1985 – Kozlov’s Vox Humana and one painting from Khazanovich‘es series Play on Letters. Exhibition views are documented in Kozlov's archive. Given the fact these two TEII exhibitions were close to the date of the 1984 ASSA exhibition, we have grounds to assume that the works in question were taken there directly from the ASSA Gallery. The Portrait of Kovalsky was also displayed at the Happy New Year exhibition at the Rock Club in December 1985 and is again present on Kozlov’s 1986 ‘ASSA Gallery’ photo.
The further history of these five paintings is also quite interesting. When Novikov had to vacate the ASSA Gallery at the end of the 1980s, he divided the works stored at that moment between himself and Sergei Bugaev. In 1991, they both donated part of these works to the Russian Museum. Of the five ASSA / TEII exhibits, Novikov donated Khazanovich‘es painting and Bugaev donated Kotelnikov / Sotnikov's Portrait of Kovalsky. The State Russian Museum acquired Sotnikov's Concert in 1989.
Kozlov's painting Commissars disappeared – most probably from the Fifth Exhibition of the TEII. Georgy Guryanov told Evgenij Kozlov and Andrey Khlobystin that he had seen Sergei Bugaev cutting it from the stretchers and selling it to a French diplomat. In a letter given to Sergei Bugaev in May 2016, which included a list with his missing works, among them Commissars, Kozlov asked Bugaev whether he had any information about these works, but to date (May 2017) has not received an answer.
In 2003, Ksenia Novikova returned Kozlov his painting VOX HUMANA, together with another one of his paintings, a view from Ivan Sotnikov's studio. In this way she expressed her gratitude to Kozlov and myself. In the 1990s, I had been able to locate, in England, twelve of Timur Novikov's ‘Horizons’ from the 1980s, and Evgenij Kozlov and I had given them back to Timur. (The history of these twelve works will be the subject of another article.)
The history of another fourteen works can be described as follows:
– Novikov donated another one of Khazanovich’es works to the Russian Museum.
– Ivan Sotnikov’s painting ‘Cosmic Flight’ was shown at the exhibition ‘Happy New Year’ (1985); later the artist donated it to the Russian Museum.
– Novikov’s painting ‘Crimea’ is in The Alisa Alonso Collection, Saint Petersburg.
– Joanna Stingray gave one of Kotelnikov’s collages to Andy Warhol in the mid 1980s.
– Kotelnikov‘s painting ‘Medical Concert’, formerly in the collection of Paquita Escofet-Miro, is now in the collection of the Centre Pompidou.
– Kozlov’s collage ‘New Year‘s Tree’ was exhibited in 2010 at the New Academy of Fine Arts, Saint Petersburg (during the ‘New Artists’ Festival) from The Timur Novikov’s Family Collection.
– Kozlov repainted two of his 1984 collages in 1986, turning them into a diptych with new titles – CCCP and 21 AVE USA, respectively. He thus integrated them into his large cycle of works dedicated to the relation between the Soviet Union and the United States, spanning from 1980 and 1989. It is in our collection (The Fobo & Kozlov Collection).
– Two of Kozlov’s small collages are also in our collection, but I have not been able to locate the other three small collages (Georgy Guryanov, Oleg Kotelnikov and his self-portrait) and his collage ‘Deutschland’.
At present, I have no knowledge about eight works from the 1984 exhibition – Khazanovich‘es diptych, Novikov’s Paris. La Cité Island, one painting by Sotnikov, and four paintings and one collage by Kotelnikov. Information about the present owners will be added when it appears.
ASSA and E-E
Two sound patterns are associated with the ‘New Artists’: ASSA (ACCA in Cyrillic) and E-E, which is pronounced Ye-Ye, the Russian letter ‘e’ being iotified and therefore phonetically transcribed as [je]. E-E sounds similar to yeah-yeah, although ‘yeah’ is slightly diphthongised: [\ˈyeə]., but is relation to pop-culture is obvious. It is important to remember that the Russian letter E, when standing on its own, is not pronounced e like in ‘ear’.
As a word sign, ASSA seems to have first made its way into the works of Oleg Kotelnikov. There are different suggestions about its origins. One is given by Ekaterina Andreyeva:
Kotelnikov enjoyed tagging his pictures with the word assa, etymologically related to the word ‘assasin’. It denoted an explosion of creative energy, and functioned in his word much like Mount Vesuvius on the horizon of Naples. (The New Artists, p. 20)
Another one is presented by Oleg Kolomeychuk, better known by his artist name Garry or Garik ASSA and one of the most notable figures of the Soviet underground. In an interview given to Misha Buster in 2005, the Moscow punk-dandy and founder of the avant garde fashion house Ай-да-люди (‘Ay-da-people’) stated
Today it is difficult to say where the name ASSA came from. Most eye witnesses are inclined to recognise Oleg Grigoryev‘s authorship. But it was Timur Novikov who put it on the revolutionary flag, and I inflated it even more with what I did. Petersburg’s fringe groups would even decipher it: The Association of Free Soviet Anarchists [Associacya sovetskikh svobodnykh anarkhistov.]. Honestly, nobody had the slightest idea. But everybody went around murmuring assa, assa … assa, assa. So we thought – o.k., if everybody says so, this will be the name of the movement. (translated by the author)
The four letters A-S-S-A obviously invited decoding abbreviations, and Ekaterina Andreyeva gives a further example. It refers to Novikov's passage from the New Artists to the New Academy in 1989:
Russian Wikipedia indicates another two significations of ASSA: as an exclamation used during a Caucasian dance and as a biblical term connected to divine creation before and after the flood.
With regard to the origins of "ASSA“, Alexei Ipatovtsev, who keeps the archive of the well-known Russian band "Aquarium“, suggests another interesting idea. In an email to me written on 1st April, 2019, he made the following statement:
By the way, Evgeny Zhilinsky brings forward the same argument. In his script from 2000 for a documentary called "Assa-ee", he specifically credits New Artist Andrey Krisanov with making the song popular among his friends. [see http://www.pereplet.ru/text/8-AssaEE.html]
Whatever comes closest, Sergey Soloviev's 1987 movie ASSA, released in 1988, made it the brand name for the Leningrad alternative art and music scene as a whole. The movie featured New Artist Sergei Bugaev in the main role and Viktor Tsoy from the cult-band KINO playing himself. Tsoy’s performance of the song ‘We want change’ became the emblem of the Perestroika period.
However, not everyone was happy with this ASSA label. Evgenij Kozlov objected to it. In his opinion, other than E-E [ye-ye or yeah-yeah], the second New Artists’ sound pattern, it lacked grandeur and represented youth culture only on a local scale. In 1987 he designed a T-shirt with Georgy Guryanov's portrait, adding the words ‘ACC-E СМЕРТЬ’, which translates as either ‘DEATH TO ASSA’ or ‘ASS-YE DEATH’. In this way, ‘Ye’ overcame ‘ASSA’. Looking back one can say that he was right. ASSA passed away in 1987, although its death was noticed only later, whereas yeah-yeah is still alive.
Playing with words and sounds has a long tradition in Russian poetry, and many New Artists indulged in it. Kirill Khazanovich’es experiments on the Ye-sound of E are reprinted in the New Artists catalogue on page 63. But Cyrillic letters also have interesting graphic designs, for example the letters Я (YA) or Л (L), which Kozlov employed for his 1985 graffiti work Я-Я / Ya-Ya more >>. The 1984 exhibition shows several fine examples of Khazanovich’es alphabet compositions. The letters sit in grids, like in a crossword, but their distribution seems random. Here, the visual effect comes to the fore.
The letter E possesses, however, a double quality: as a sound pattern it presents pop-culture, and as a visual image, its vertical and three horizontal bars form axes or vectors of a two-dimensional space. The hyphen inside the double E – ‘E-E’ – adds to the charm of this geometrical image and, when prolonged, creates the horizon in Timur Novkov’s works from 1985 and later.
Oleg Kotelnikov's collage from E-E-pho-BT24 more >> shows such a double ‘E’, whereas Kozlov scratched E-E into the film negative of E-E-pho-BS35 more >>. He inscribed the letters slightly oblique into the mattress carried by Novikov, which makes Novikov's movement very dynamic.Another variant is e-e written in lower case, the spiral or curly e-e. Kotelnikov added such double spirals to his painting signed E-E Kozlov, which might be another hint of Kozlov’s preference for this pattern. We can also see e-e in Kozlov’s painting VOX HUMANA more >>, but only in the pictures taken after the opening of the 1984 exhibtion. In other words, this e-e appeared during or after the exhibition. Kozlov wrote it into a light rectangle which stands out against an almost black background – an ideal spot for the sign he adapted as his signature in 2005 and as part of his name in 2013: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, pronounced ‘Ye-Ye Yevgeni Kozlov ’ – yeah yeah yeah. The triple affirmation (= three times ‘yes’) is, as we know, a magic spell. But he thinks that ultimately his birth name ‘Evgenij Kozlov’ will disappear altogether in favour of a universal E-E. Since March 2017, his new signature is ‘E-E people’.
 [...], которая представляла собой гигантскую, восьмикомнатную квартиру, частично коммунальную, частично уже расселенную. Там мы занимали около шести комнат, две из которых были галереей, три - для художников, где постоянно жили гости, проводились праздники и т.д.
http://www.timurnovikov.ru/docs/lecture/89_leningradskoe_iskusstvo.pdf (in Russian)
 Most probably, this scene was recorded in 1987. The movie is available on youtube >>
 In his article about the New Artists from 1986, Timur Novikov wrote (under his pseudonym Igor Potapov) that the Letopis group was “reborn as ‘New Artists’ in 1982” / [...] группа художников «Летопись», которая в 1982 переродилась в «Новых художников». (The New Artists 1982 - 1987. An Anthology, p. 85.) This might have been the reason for Ksenia Novikova’s decision to date the ASSA Gallery back to ‘Letopis’ exhibitions.
 A strange case is picture E-E-pho-BS41, showing Timur Novikov with his paintings and Khazanovich’es diptych more >>. It was reprinted in Sergei Bugaev’s exhibition catalogue ‘ASSA’, 2013, p. 25, without indicating Kozlov as the author. The captions state ‘Выставка Олега Котельникова в галерее Асса’, or ‘Oleg Kotelnikov’s exhibition at the Assa gallery˚, although the works displayed in the picture can hardly be taken for Kotelnikov’s. Kotelnikov’s solo show at the ASSA Gallery was a year earlier, in 1983.
Brushstroke. The New Artists and Necrorealists. 1982 - 1991
Brushstroke / Удар кисти, Russian edition:
Удар кисти: "Новые художники" и некрореалисты : 1982-1991
The publication can be downloaded for free in PDF format from the website of The Museum of Nonconformist Art
Last updated 4 June 2022
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