(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s • No.112 >>
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Catherine Mannick, and Hannelore Fobo papers, 1979-1994 (inclusive)
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection
In 2021 and 2022, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection at Harvard University received a large donation related to a crucial period of Soviet art – the years prior to perestroika and the perestroika period itself, as experienced by one the protagonists of Leningrad’s thriving art-scene: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, a founding member of the New Artists group (1982-1989). The donation resulted from a joint initiative by Catherine Mannick, in Boston, and (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov and Hannelore Fobo, in Berlin external link >>. The focus is on Kozlov’s diaries (1979-1983), which came in a specially designed box more>>, and on Mannick’s and Kozlov’s correspondence (1979-1990) more>>. The correspondence has now been called “USA-CCCP. Points of Contact”, giving this specific part of the donation the title of one of Kozlov’s paintings from 1989.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
The donation is, however, unique in yet another respect, since Kozlov’s artworks and numerous pictures he took at exhibitions, happenings, raves etc. constitute an essential part of the correspondence. As “mail art” in a broader sense, these works document Kozlov’s fast artistic evolution towards an international, yet distinctly personal style; at the same time, they present an illustrated history of late Soviet art. The collection also includes other gifts sent from Leningrad to Boston and vice versa, as well as some items from later years. All items will be made available for further research at the Fung Library.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
More than thirty years later, as America and Russia are again confronting each other, these materials may be viewed from a historical perspective. They are remarkable not only because of the period they cover – the last decade of Cold War. They also offer insight into how art overcomes ideologies. In a diary note dated 24 May, 1980, E-E Kozlov wrote, “The only truth generated by art – and indeed its goal – is to conjure up the essence of life.”
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov and the period of the Leningrad ninety-eighties
In their seminal publication Notes from the Underground. Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968-1994 (2016), David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk refer to (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov as “one of the founders of the New Artists group, in Leningrad in 1982, perhaps the most influential art phenomenon in the Soviet Union in its last decade”. To no little degree, the New Artists (1982-1989) became influential through Kozlov’s substantial contribution to the group with his highly sophisticated works – paintings, drawings, photography, collages, textile works, objects, posters, record sleeves, and fashion design, often produced using elaborate techniques.
In the late 1980s, when the New Artists showed their works internationally, Kozlov’s works were featured on catalogue covers and posters. In 2011, Moscow curator Andrey Erofeev selected his “Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms Consisting of Bones” (1988) to represent Russia’s “Avant-garde in Art from 1980 to 2000”. Today, Kozlov’s works from the Leningrad period are in the collections of the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, the Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, and other public and private collections.
International success could not be expected from the outset. Like most New Artists, Kozlov was lacking an official diploma and thus fell into the category of non-official artists. Until perestroika took momentum, he produced his art within a close circle of friends in a closed society – which stood in plain contrast to his perception of art and creation as a universal force, as the materials donated to the Fung Library demonstrate.
Both as genres and stylistically, the diaries and correspondence stand out among other New Artists’ texts written during the same period. These were, in the main, satirical texts, poetry, and sound-games in the tradition of Daniil Charms. Instead, Kozlov’s texts present his reflections on art, but also his notes on everyday life, such as planning exhibitions or meeting with friends. Setting out subjective viewpoints and objective facts alike, the texts bear witness of his wide scope of interests. But they do so in different ways: the diaries as an inner conversation completed by manifold observations, and the letters as a carefully formulated speech to inform and entertain their only reader. Not all of Kozlov’s letters have been preserved, but the diaries, which partly overlap with the correspondence, help to fill certain gaps.
Catherine Mannick’s answers from across the ocean, as well as her occasional trips to Leningrad stimulated Evgenij Kozlov’s synthetic worldview, which led to numerous works dedicated to the American-Soviet relationship, but not only. In 1987, the artist sent his birthday greetings on the reverse of a photo displaying one of his latest paintings, “USSR-CHINA”, in which both protagonists are depicted as guitarists – in hindsight, a rather prophetic work. China is seen to have joined the concert of the world powers.
Hannelore Fobo, June 2022
 Crowley, David; Muzyczuk, Daniel (2016) Notes from the Underground. Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968-1994. Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, Koenig Books, London. p.306. ISBN 978-3-96098-064-3 more >>.
 Texts by Vladislav Gutsevich Oleg Kotelnikov, Timur Novikov, Vadim Ovchinnikov, and others, written between 1982 and 1987, were first compiled by E. Andreeva and E. Kolovskaya for an “Anthology”, published the mid-ninety nineties with a grant by the Soros Foundation.
Published 4 July 2022