(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Exhibitions >> Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists • Новые художники
Leningrad, Sverdlov House of Culture, 22-25 April 1988
|Page 1: Introduction|
|Page 2: Reconstructing the exhibition|
|Page 3: The display of works|
|Page 4: Performance New Composers|
|Page 5: Conclusions|
|Page 6: Exhibition catalogue (booklet)|
|Page 7: April Pioneers (article from 2001)|
|Page 8: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov‘s works|
New Artists exhibtion poster, silkscreen print on paper, 60.5 x 84.5 cm, 1988
Collection of Kozlov & Fobo, Berlin.
Text with English translation:
ДК ЛСПО им. Я.М. СВЕРДЛОВА [Ленинградское станкостроительное производственное объединение имени Я.М. Свердлова]
Объединение Вернисаж представляет / Vernissage Association presents
Группа «НОВЫЕ ХУДОЖНИКИ» The "NEW ARTISTS" group
Сергей Бугаев, Олег Котельников, Евгений Козлов, Иван Сотников,
Тимур Новиков, Вадим Овчинников, Инал Савченков, Евгений Юфит (и др.)
Sergei Bugaev, Oleg Kotelnikov Evgenij Kozlov, Ivan Sotnikov,
Timur Novikov, Vadim Ovchinnikov, Inal Savchenkov, Evgeny Yufit (and others)
на выставке / on the occasion of the exhibition
23 апреля фестиваль искусств новых / 23 April Festival of the art of the New
24 апреля в 13 часов круглый стол на тему / 24 April 1 p.m. round table discussion:
НОВЫЕ ХУДОЖНИКИ И СТАРОЕ ИСКУССТВО / “New Artists” and “Old” Art
24 апреля в 16 часов творческая встреча с худониками, музыкантами, кинематографистами, литераторами /
A creative meeting with artists, musicians, cinematographers and writers
aдрес: арсенальная ул. 1/3 / address: Arsenalnaya street 1/3
The first official Leningrad exhibition of the New Artists took place from 22-25 April 1988 at the House of Culture of the LSPO Sverdlova [LSPO = Ленинградское станкостроительное производственное объединение / Leningrad machine tool production association named after Sverdlov] – in short “Sverdlov House of Culture”.
This was also the first time the group’s name Новые художники (Novye Khudozhniki) was printed on a poster, and the exhibition booklet can be considered as the group’s first official catalogue. Under the headline (on both sides of the booklet) “«Новые критики» о «Новых художниках»” (“The New Critics” about “The New Artists”), this booklet presents a joint article by Andrey Khlobystin and Alla Mitrofanova and another one by Mikhail Trofimenkov. see page 6 >>
This headline very well expressed the authors‘ credo: new art requires a new approach towards it. In fact, these young authors have all become distinguished writers and critics, but in the second half of the 1980s, the “New Critics”, co-founded by Khlobystin and Mitrofanova, were an informal group that included a number of young art historians, among them Ekaterina Andreeva and Olesya Turkina, both important scholars on the work of the New Artists and the Necrorealists. In his book Шизореволуция (Shizorevolutsiia / Schizorevolution, 2017) – for which he was awarded the prestigious Kandinksy prize in 2019 – Khlobystin writes about the early activities of the New Critics (pp. 115-117).
The Sverdlov booklet and poster both highlight the fact that The New Artists were presented by the creative association (творческое объединение) Vernissage. It might appear strange that the New Artists, a rather well-known Leningrad avant-garde group by 1988, needed a host to present them at the Sverdlov House of Culture. An explanation can be found in a publication by The Museum of Nonconformist Art, Saint-Petersburg, 2007, edited by S. Kovalsky, E. Orlov, Yu. Rybakov. The book is called ТЭИИ – Товариществo экспериментального изобразительного искусства –«Неофициальное» искусство 1981 – 1991 годов. (From Leningrad to Saint-Petersburg. TEII – The Society for Experimental Visual Art. ‘Non-Official’ Art 1981-1991).
In this book, co-editor Sergey Kovalsky, one of the leading activists of the Leningrad unofficial art-scene from the 1980s and a founding member of the TEII, explains the purpose of Vernissage:
We set ourselves the task to get a permanent location for our exhibitions and meetings. And we were successful, thanks to the involvement of many people – in the first place of Liuba Gurevich, who had become, by that time, quite familiar with TEII artists, their art and problems. At the beginning of 1988, the creative association “Vernissage” started to work at the Club of the LSPO Sverdlova. “Vernissage”, which was first directed by L. Gurevich, and then by I. Khrabrov, became home to the Leningrad Club of Art Historians. A number of important exhibitions followed: A Manuzov, N. Blagodatov’s collection of paintings, S. Rossin, I. Ivano, and the “New Artists” (1987-1988). M. Trofimenkov, A. Mitrofanova, A. Khlobystin and E. Andreeva, all of them promising young art historians, wrote articles for these exhibitions.
In the same book, Liubov Gurevich gives an account of the foundation of Vernissage (p. 255 ff.), which is interesting with regard to how unofficial artists and art lovers managed to overcome some specific problems inherent to the Soviet system. Thus, Gurevich succeeded in registering Vernissage at the local Komsomol, the Soviet Youth organisation, with the support of Sergey Kovalsky, but especially with help of a young charming student by the name of Liuda. Liuda first managed to convince the person in charge at the Komsomol to sign the appropriate document, and then she convinced the person in charge for cultural activities at the Sverdlov state enterprise to adopt Vernissage as one of their amateur circles – as all companies were operated by the state, they all had cultural departments to offer their workers leisure activities. It goes without saying that up to that very moment, the Sverdlov House of Culture had no connection whatsoever to Leningrad’s unofficial art-scene. Gurevich also writes that she was shocked when she first came to visit the “roof” Liuda had found for Vernissage.
When I finally came to that club, I realised that the premises were unsuitable for exhibitions: the hall was huge, but it had eight doors and a stage, and every Saturday they had dance parties. But it was too late.
Originally founded in 1867 as the “Felix” machine building company, the LSPO Sverdlova received its “House of Culture” on Arsenal street 1/3, near Finland Station. A picture in the internet from 2010 of ДК работников завода им. Свердлова (The House of Culture of the Workers of the Factory Named after Sverdlov) shows a large building composed of several units; it is now the business centre ”Arsenalny”, and the address is today Arsenal street 1/2 (building 2).
It is difficult to assess the period when the Sverdlov House of Culture was erected, but the functional, not to say austere design, as well as the pictures of the interior taken at the 1988 exhibition speak to post-war architecture.
The large building‘s main unit, a compact structure with a rectangular floor plan, has only to floors: an average height ground floor and a double-height second floor, where the auditorium was located, equipped with a stage and removable tiers.
Judging by Alexander Savatyugin’s pictures of the interior, Gurevich might have slightly exaggerated the number of doors, but the number of windows is indeed quite impressive. The internet picture shows that the second floor of the exterior facade is entirely intersected with windows. Naturally, this reduced the available exhibition space even further.
Returning to Kovalsky’s text quoted above: the apposition to New Artists‘ exhibition – the reference to the years 1987-1988 – remains unclear, as there was no New Artists‘ exhibition in 1987. Perhaps what Kovalsky had in mind was to say that the exhibition showed only recent works.
However, neither the poster nor the booklet have any mention of such a concept, nor was such a concept present in the exhibition itself, as I will show later. Still, the poster allows us to infer that the exhibition was set into a context of something new – in addition to the date of the exhibition, it announces a number of new activities. Thus, there was a фестиваль искусства новых (Festival of the Art of the New) on 23 April, and 24 April saw two events, the round table discussion „Новые художники“ и „старое“ искусство (“New Artists” and “Old” Art) at 13.00 hrs, and, at 16.00 hrs, творческая встреча с художниками, музыкантами, кинематографистами, литераторами (A creative meeting with artists, musicians, cinematographers and writers). The stage performance of the electronic group “New Composers”, extensively documented with pictures by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov see page 4 >>, was part of the latter.
We can only speculate as to what exactly the “Festival of the Art of the New” might have been. 23 April 1988 was a Saturday, and perhaps this "festival” was nothing more than a regular Saturday dance party that happened to take place among new works. After all, why shouldn’t regular visitors of the Sverdlov House of Culture mingle with the New Artists and their friends?
But according to Igor Khadikov, there was another, rather unusual intersection of official and unofficial culture: the pioneers being sworn in on stage were “framed” by three of Kozlov’s emblematic works from the White on Red cycle. Seen from afar, their graphic effect was stunningly beautiful – they looked like pop art paraphrases of the Soviet flag. Khadikov mentions this occurrence in the article April Pioneers see page 7 >>, one of several articles based on Kozlov’s photo archive Khadikov and I published in 2000 / 2001. (First published in Russian in the Saint Petersburg journal “Na Dne”, these articles are accessible on this website: Leningrad 80s >> Nos 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
Thus, the largest of the three works, “CCCP” (ca. 200 x 600 cm), was hanging from upper border of the stage, while “Star” (Звезда 205 x 220 cm) and “Star. 6 Figures” (Звезда. 6 Фигур 211 x 230 cm) covered the wall sections left and right of the stage.
The compositions, carried out with white paint on red cotton fabric used for banners, took up graphic symbols from Soviet constructivism: huge letters, a star, and marching figures, respectively. (For colour reproductions see page 8 >>) These symbols were inserted into patterns of parallel lines creating a dynamic rhythm absent in the plain-coloured, dull Soviet flag with its tiny symbol at the left upper corner. Seen from afar, their graphic effect was stunningly beautful – they looked like highly aestheticised paraphrases of the Soviet flag.
These works belong to Kozlov‘s important ART from the USSR – ART for the USA series (ART из СССР – ART для USA) from 1987/1988 more >> , more>> and stand in direct relation to perestroika. It is easy to see in the line patterns an allusion to the stripes of the American flag – the “Star-Spangled Banner”. Apparently, this was too obvious to be noticed.
We may image how the pioneers, surrounded by Kozlov’s striking artistic statement, solemnly promised …”to live as the great Lenin bade us to, as the Communist Party teaches us to, as require the laws of the Pioneers of the Soviet Union.” (quoted after Lev Golikin). Their red kerchiefs must have been in perfect harmony with Kozlov’s “flags”. Khadikov states:
see page 7 >>
The pioneers could have hardly been aware that they were taking an oath looking at the works of the New Artists, and that they became participants of a presentation which would have been the envy of D. A Prigov and which Sergey Kuryokhin might very well have used for his “Pop Mekhanika”.
The pioneers were actually looking not only at the works of the New Artists: there was also a long banner fixed to the rear end of the hall, opposite the stage. The banner, presumably made of the same red textile as Kozlov’s works, carried a communist slogan. In the pictures, the first and the last words are not visible; we therefore do no know the recipient of the message, but the message itself is unambiguous:
We will ensure the unconditional implementation of the programme of intensification.
Perestroika couldn’t do without visual propaganda, and by the communist law of inertia, implementation had to be unconditional. The New Artists took the order literally and displayed a huge number of works.
Three years later, in 1991, when the Soviet Union was dissolved and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was banned, communist banners and ceremonies also became derelict. By that time, the New Artists had carried out a number of international exhibitions – and had also dissolved as a group, having their mission successfully completed.
Uploaded 5 February 2020