E-Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: ART >>
(E-E) EVGENIJ KOZLOV
63 Collages from the 1980s and 1990s – and related works
Text and layout: Hannelore Fobo, December 2020
Page 1: Introduction
In the 1980s, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov started creating collages as resource material for his works, cutting illustrations from Soviet newspapers and magazines.
Kozlov placed up to fifteen images – some with captions attached – on sheets of paper, arranging them according to their subject matter: groups of people, children, movie couples, heads, hand gestures, human anatomy, animals, folklore and ethnology, history, sports, musical instruments, architecture and constructions, space rockets, cosmonauts, doctors and researchers, soldiers and military parades, ships, etc. Some collages combine different subjects that follow some aesthetical principle, for example certain shapes or movements. In other cases, a single picture covers the entire surface of the paper. Based on thematic and aesthetic concepts, these collages constitute panels or tableaus in the larger sense.
With respect to colour reproductions, the artist could draw on piles of illustrated magazines his father had subscribed for a number of years, the geographic monthly Vokrug Sveta (Вокруг света, Around the World) and Nauka i Zhizn (Наука и жизнь, Science and Life). Both magazines had been founded in Russia in the nineteenth century and were very popular in the Soviet Union. Kozlov remembers that apart from those, he used some other popular magazines, too, among them one that featured military technique.
Soviet print technologies for mass media illustrations were not particularly sophisticated, and the use of poor paper and poor ink made the images hazy and the colours flat. Yet from today’s point of view, these shortcomings give the illustrations their specific charm.
Speaking of Soviet newspapers and magazines doesn’t mean that the images themselves all present Soviet motifs. The Soviet Union saw itself accomplishing an international mission, and informing readers about other countries was part of its ideology. Thus, a number of ethnographical (African and Asian) images in the collages might have been cut from Vokrug Sveta.
It goes without saying that important Soviet daily newspapers like the Pravda or Izvestia covered international events. By way of example, a picture from panel 47 sees Queen Elisabeth II reviewing the Chinese guard of honour on the occasion of her first state visit to China in 1986.
At least one of the pictures must have from come an international magazine: that of the National Archives Building, Washington, more exactly, the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom (panel 3; for the sake of clarity, I call a collage a “panel” when numbering it.). It is most likely from Amerika, a large-format Russian-language magazine published by the United States Information Agency (USIA) and distributed in the Soviet Union. This is what Kozlov recalls, and the size and the subject of the picture indeed suggest such an interpretation. Perhaps the picture was in the 1987 edition of Amerika, dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.
Having moved to Berlin at the beginning of the 1990s, Kozlov continued the series of collages, predominantly with new material from western magazines, TV guides and brochures, although he used some older material, too. He complemented previous collages, but also created new topics, such as hairdos, fashion, mountaineering, castles, or couples from old Hollywood movies, which led to a series of sixty-three collages in total. Their dimensions vary but are generally around 40 x 50 cm (landscape format) or 50 x 40 cm (portrait format), although some are smaller.
Studying the results, Kozlov “recognised” in those slightly blurred reproductions of faces a number of friends and acquaintances, mostly from the Leningrad / St. Petersburg art scene: Evgeny Kondratev, Inal Savchenkov, Andrey Khlobystin, O.M. Sumarokov (director of the Leningrad Club NCh-VCh), Natalia Pivovarova (lead-singer of “Kolibri”), art-collector Aleksei Gensler, and some others. He noted their names next to the pictures, inserting an arrow to the respective person, and in this way, personalised those pictures, while at the same time making his friends persons of public interest.
To my surprise, I also found my own name in one of the pictures from panel 47 – abbreviated as H. Fobo and pointing to one of the schoolgirls in a Soviet class. Since we look at her back, E-E was given carte blanche and simply ignored the fact that as a child I wore my hair short, while the girl in the picture has long braids. Besides, he also identified several better-known persons of public interest, for instance V. Mayakovsky, Yuri Gagarin, St. Wonder, and A. Warhol, and Hollywood stars like King Kong. Many collages display additional notes to selected images, and panel 12 has a short story about a friendship between dogs.
In 2007, the artist again returned to the collages and decided to turn them into a proper cycle of works he summarised as “E-E Drafts” (“E-E черновики”). Using brown parcel tape of 48 mm width, he started supplying each collage with irregular patterns of “E” letters, thus introducing his signature “E-E”. To some collages, he also added abstract lines and colour ornaments, thereby integrating all cut-outs into a single composition.
However, only thirty collages have actually been achieved in this way – they are kept in a separate folder – while the other thirty-three display the original content without any changes. Kozlov numbered the larger part of his collages, with numbers ranging from one to forty-five – in a slightly discontinuous order: numbers 10, 16, 24, 26, 30, 34, 35, 38, 39, 43 are all missing (or no longer visible) and no. 5 exists twice. When I documented the collages for Kozlov’s archive, I decided to create a new numbering system that deviates from Kozlov’s own numbers, starting with those thirty-three “original” collages (panels 1-33) and continuing with the “parcel tape” works (panels 34-63), thereby sticking to the order in which they are being stored. In other words, 1 refers to the top sheet or top panel, while 63 refers to the bottom sheet. The presentation on the website uses this nomenclature, and these numbers precede all other information about a specific collage, such as dimensions, Kozlov's own numbering, as well as his notes in the collage and my own (editor’s) notes. By the way, the artist told me that should he complete panels 1-33, he would add some more names, for instance those of Fidel Castro, Hitler, and Gojko Mitić, a Serbian actor who became extremely popular in Eastern European countries featuring Americans Native in GDR Westerns.
Having a closer look at those sixty-three collages or panels, I tried to work out how many of the individual images actually “entered” Kozlov’s work. That is now difficult to say, since several collages have missing pieces, often some rectangular cut-out, perhaps of pictures the artist used for his work. Some images reappear in a work in fragmentary way, which means that of those the artist needed only particular fragments or features. This is the case with his portrait of Joanna Stingray from 1989. Kozlov made Stingray wear a space suit without a helmet. In a picture with cosmonaut Vitaly Sevastianov (panel 26), we recognise the upper part of “her” space suit with the opening for the detachable helmet.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov with
Портрет Джоанны Стингрей / Portrait of Joanna Stingray
Wax crayon and charcoal on paper, 63.2 x 49 cm, 1989
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 2018 more >>
"Stingray in Wonderland" – Joanna Stingray‘s autobiography more >>
So far, I have been able to determine, in those 63 panels, twenty-two pictures or fragments of pictures that reappear in some way or another in E-E Kozlov’s drawings or paintings, although a close study will definitely reveal some more. I published those “follow-up” works below the respective panels.
Most of these twenty-two pictures are from the first – “Soviet” - period of the collages, although the majority of works these pictures inspired are from 1994 to 1998. 1994 was the year Kozlov and I opened his Berlin studio The Russian Field, which led to a quite intensive period in the artist’s creation.
Technically and stylistically seen, these “follow-up” works a quite heterogeneous. The earliest one, related to panel 23, is from 1985. It is a felt-pen drawing of a statue, carried out on a small notepad. A inverted caption “Раскрась сам” – Colour yourself – is an allusion to Andy Warhol’s Do it Yourself series, while the reverse of the note sees a figure in the style of Keith Haring. Kozlov now calls these drawings E-E vs. Warhol and E-E vs. Haring, respectively.
There are a few pencil drawings on transparent paper, but the majority of those “follow-up” works are elaborate compositions, like those three paintings from the “Virtuoso Reality” cycle (1996): What is forbidden – it can be done (a multifigure composition with a statue from panel 19 page 5), Men’s Dream (a multifigure composition with the strawberries from panel 20 page 5), and In Paradise the Apples are like Stars (based on a landscape from panel 49 page 8).
The title of the cycle, Виртуозная Реальность (Virtuoso Reality), is written on a small drawing which is also part of panel 20. The twelve works of the Virtuoso Reality cycle emerged, in the main, from Kozlov’s Book for People, Princesses and Princes (1991 - 2007) more, which, in turn, consists of 208 almost entirely repainted pages of Ansichten vom Körper (1986), an illustrated book relating the history of nude photography. In Kozlov’s work, a combination of different sources is the rule rather than an exception.
In many cases it is impossible to find such crosslinks without having a profound knowledge of Evgenij Kozlov’s vast body of work. His multifigure composition “Shark” from 1988 provides an example. To identify the figurative elements, one needs to know Kozlov’s photographs, but one of the tiny details constituting the sleeve of Igor Verichev’s jacket, an aircraft, had escaped my attention earlier. I found it on panel 29, where Kozlov placed several fighter aircrafts from the 1930s. One of them, а Polikarpov I-16, is now in the painting “Shark”.
Yet identifying an element only makes sense when we determine the degree of its transformation – basically, that is what it’s all about. Asking the artist sometimes helps. I didn’t immediately recognise the pictures in panel 27 and panel 35 leading to two motifs from the “New Classicals” cycle, “Love for the Cosmos” and “Love for Work”, both from 1989. Kozlov transformed, in a constructivist style, the figures these pictures display, and he also changed a number of details, including the background. Once you know, the links between image and work are obvious, and the constructivist style perfectly corresponds to the geometricity of objects and figures in the images, especially to those in the picture leading to “Love for Work”. In the photograph, we see three persons wearing hazmat suits and gas masks, carrying and piling large boxes, presumably containing radioactive material. Most shapes reveal some basic geometric form, such as a cylinder or a cube, and Kozlov took up the architectural feel of the photograph in his own composition. He added a temple and two Ionic columns, depicting the spiral ornament of the Ionic volute as two circles united by a rectangle.The picture leading to Love for the Cosmos, an ITAR-TASS press picture, sees six Soviets cosmonauts during a TV discussion on 7 November 1962: Pavel Popovich, Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova, Valery Bykovsky, Andriyan Nikolaev, and German Titov. Next to a large Lenin banner, the background image displays two space rockets shooting through the sky. Kozlov reduced their number to five, and they now look like a congregation of cosmic figures discussing world order.
In fact, the story goes further. Kozlov first painted “Love for the Cosmos” and “Love for Work” as black and white compositions on either side of a Soviet bus-stop sign before recreating them, in 1990, as multi-colour compositions on canvas in a 2x3m format, again transforming a number of features. In “Love for the Cosmos”, a significant change regards the second figure from the right – it has now become the main figure, with the flag behind its back metamorphosed into two mighty wings.
In the oil on canvas version of “Love for Work”, the figures are inside a space ship set against a starry sky. A radioactive fire is in the lower left corner; a ventilator above it looks like a radiation trefoil warning symbol. The work’s main colours – orange with red and yellow – and zigzagging contours of flashes and flames intensify the feeling of heat and danger. Besides, the composition allows for a number of different interpretations. Daniel Muzyczuk of Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, who exhibited the painting in 2016 at Notes from the Underground. Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968–1994, told me that the ventilator reminded him of a vinyl record. To me, one of the columns from the previous work looks like a gigantic breathing apparatus on the back of the central figure. I also recognise, in the upper right corner, someone observing the scene, with what used to be the volute of a column having turned into binoculars, and the column itself into the hands holding them.
In 2015, the artist designed with “Love for the Cosmos” the cover of the vinyl record “START”, the first release of a 1987 recording by musicians of the bands Kino and New Composers. I added these later works to the publication to demonstrate that a motif may undergo a transformation through several stages, that is, acquire a biography of sorts. Yet it would go beyond the scope of this presentation to follow down the biography of each motif. Suffice it to say that in some cases, for instance in that of the strawberries from panel 20, the road is long and intertwined, offering many bifurcations.
Among all collages, panel 15 has the richest output: four images have follow-up works, of which two proved to be particularly prolific, one with a group of peasant women, and another one with a portrait of a man. In those two newspaper images, the artist first accentuated specific contours of faces and figures he then transferred to his portraits of a woman and a man, supplying them with new attributes and symbols. In the diptych Men rely on them, and they rely on God / Women rely on them, and they rely on God (1994), the figures reappear with a captivating presence, as complex and strong individuals. In 1995, Kozlov united both figures in his double portrait The Heart isn’t Necessarily Red, but there also exist two other variations of the portrait of the woman, on different media and in different techniques. Panel 15 and those works related to it are presented on the next page. page 2
|Uploaded 21 December 2020
Last updated 6 December 2021