(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
Chapter 12. Galaxy Gallery
This fragmentary account of leisure and work in Peterhof just highlights some aspects of E-E Kozlov’s life. To get a full picture, we would have to add, in the first place, his frequent trips to Leningrad, well documented in numerous pictures, many of which found their way into his work, whether as photo-collages or inspiring his painted portraits.
But it was the general atmosphere of Peterhof – Kozlov’s extended native roots – that resounded in his works through a process of aestheticisation and spiritual metamorphosis of any subject matter that was able to attract his attention, including such mass production items as red calico for banners. I called the result “enhanced reality” earlier.
The White on Red series demonstrates that the principle of aestheticisation concerns not only Peterhof motifs, although many of Kozlov’s works from the nineteen eighties are in fact related to Peterhof in one way or another, as are some later works, after the artist left Peterhof in 1989 to settle in Leningrad.
The principle of aestheticisation extends to all other subject matters as well, for instance the USA-CCCP-CHINA motifs, and it does so independently of style and technique. It includes his graffiti style works, painted photos, multifigure compositions, frottage works, objects, textile designs, etc.
Because the process of aestheticisation follows the principle of harmony, it doesn’t require a specific motif, style or technique; it finds its expression in a different way with each new work of art, thus revealing the potential of the subject matter it metamorphoses.
In this way, Peterhof formed a microcosm holding a creative macrocosm: Galaxy Gallery, the place Kozlov meditated on the world at large – cosmos.
In terms of space, Galaxy Gallery is a euphemism: the area available for Kozlov’s creative activities comprehended no more than 8.5 m2, the smaller one of the flat’s two rooms. To this we may add another square metre, the storeroom where the artist kept his small photo-laboratory inherited from his father. The rest of the flat he shared with his parents. In all likelihood, he started painting on canvas only after his father’s early death in 1980. At any rate, documentation for the years prior to 1980 exists only of works on paper, basically for the Leningrad Album, his now famous series of his erotic drawings from his schooldays, exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.
But the name Galaxy Gallery was a provocation not only with respect to space. Linked to the concept of managing a commercial gallery, it was also a reference to the Socialist class enemy: the bourgeois leading a private company. What was more, the fact that the name was English was a reference to the top enemy, America, the leader of the “Rotting West”. Galaxy Gallery could surely raise suspicion about the artist’s allegiance to the Communist state. This is why his mother removed the sign from the door to their home.
With Galaxy Gallery, the artist challenged in three different ways what confined the realisation of his creative potential.
First, he challenged the physical limits of space. In fact, after 1985, Kozlov works got increasingly larger, and in 1987, CCCP, the largest work ever created at Galaxy Gallery, had a size of 193 x 583 cm. CCCP was too large for a single wall of Kozlov’s room, and the material had to be fixed around the corner, to adjacent walls.
Second, he challenged the restrictions imposed on him because of his status as an unofficial artist – which meant he was not able to promote his works as he wished, nor was he allowed to sell them, neither privately nor through state agencies.
Last but not least, with Galaxy Gallery, E-E Kozlov challenged the dominating position of American contemporary art. The artist doesn’t remember when exactly he conceived of its name, but in retrospective, we may consider Galaxy Gallery as Evgenij Kozlov’s answer to New York’s East Village – to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf. While the relation between the USSR and the USA had been a recurrent subject in his works since 1980, his message became more specific in 1988 with a cycle of works bearing the inscription ART из СССР – ART для USA, that is, ART from the USSR – ART for the USA. To make his message understood, he chose rather unusual, yet distinctly Soviet objects – Peterhof bus stop signs, and integrated the street names they displayed, Lenin Boulevard or Comintern Street, into the compositions.
The logotype of ART из СССР, a skull shouting these words – that is, shouting Art from the USSR – appeared on many other paintings and objects, including some handbags. This logotype is reminiscent of Alexander Rodchenko‘s poster design КНИГИ, “Books (Please)!”, from 1924, yet Kozlov directed his message not to the audience of his own country, but to the USA.
With Galaxy Gallery, E-E Kozlov made a claim for his place in in the universe of art.
 Examples of Kozlov’s Peterhof subjects are his landscape paintings from 1981, his beach scenes from the “Gulf of Finland” series (1983, see Chapter 13), or his large painting Fear / Peace to the Enemy. The Fires of Petrodvorets (1989, see Chapter 13); they display the diversity of the artist’s stylistic approaches in the course of the 1980s. The most important example from his later works is his Berlin cycle “Miniatures in Paradise” from 1995
 See ”The Encyclopedic Palace". The Leningad Album at the "La Biennale di Venezia", from June 1 through November 24, 2013. selected press review / press. Web 25 August 2020.
 In the USSR, there existed no private galleries, as there existed no private business at all, at least not in a legal form, and black market dealers would trade icons, not contemporary art which had little market value. Besides, being an unofficial artist, Kozlov was not even allowed to sell his works privately or through state agencies.
 Kozlov was familiar with that world through a book he translated – Steven Hager’s 1986 book Art After Midnight: The East Village Scene, a chronicle of punk and new wave, clubs and graffiti artists in the New York of the early eighties.
Kozlov’s undated manuscript is his archive.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020