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(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
Detail of a picture with a Campbell's soup can Andrey Medvedev used for mixing paint. The picture was taken at Medvedev's studio in Saint Petersburg in 1992. Most likely, the can is one of those legendary Campbell's soup cans signed by Andy Warhol Joanna Stingray brought her Leningrad friends in 1986 as a gift from the famous American artist (see below)
Photo: Hannelore Fobo 1992
Chapter 2 Perestroika, the Mayakovsky Friends Club, and pop art
In the previous chapter, I spoke of the ideological charge of Novikov’s statement “The victory for our own native roots over western influences”. Why does it appear to be ideologically motivated?
Unfortunately, no visual documentation of New Artists exhibitions exists for the period of 1986-1987, but it helps to look at pictures from the Leningrad TEII exhibitions. The TEII or The Society for Experimental Visual Art (1981-1991) was Leningrad’s first and most important self-organised association of unofficial artists, and at TEII exhibitions, which sometimes showed works by more than one hundred artists, the New Artists displayed their works together, on one wall. When we look at pictures from the New Artists section of the 1986 and 1987 TEII exhibitions, we cannot say that with regard to style, these works were closer to “native roots” than those shown at the New Artists’ group exhibition Happy New Year in December 1985.
What about Novikov’s other argument – that with the arrival of new artists in the mid eighties, and after a short-live interest in graffiti art, comics and computers, a process of mutual influence started?
When we divide the group into artists of the first generation and artists of the second generation, that is, founding members from 1982 and artists joining around 1984-1986 – who, according to Novikov, stirred the interest of their “older” colleagues in contemporary world culture – it is hard to see how these mutual influences actually worked, because instead of discontinuity in personal styles, we find continuity.
Concerning the first generation of New Artists – according to Novikov, founding members were Kirill Khazanovich, Oleg Kotelnikov, Evgenij Kozlov, Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov – we can say that Ivan Sotnikov‘s folkloric pop-art was a constant throughout most of his artistic career. We also note that the “wild” style of “figuration libre” characteristic for Oleg Kotelnikov’s works actually existed before the second generation of New Artists joined, and the same goes for Kirill Khazanovich’s comic art.
We find the same constancy with the second generation of artists mentioned in Novikov’s New Artists text. Novikov introduces most of them with the statement “with the arrival of new artists in the group” – Sergei Bugaev, Andrei Krisanov, Inal Savchenkov, Oleg Maslov, Alexei Kozin, Michail Taratuta, Vadim Ovchinnikov and Sergey Shutov – although some more names appear in other text passages. To name just a few: Vladislav Gutsevich remained faithful to his bright primitivism. Andrei Krisanov and Inal Savchenkov never changed their comic styles – this “age-related affliction”, in Novikov’s terms (literally “this childhood disease”), just didn’t pass.
Perhaps Novikov was referring to himself. His carefully structured, minimalistic “Horizons” appeared around 1985, gradually substituting his earlier expressionistic style.
On the other hand, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov changed his style approximately every two years in the decade of the 1980s, without completely abandoning his previous styles. Would he have done so without looking at the works of his artist friends? Most likely so, as the stylistic features they preferred had a limited influence on his works. We notice avant-garde influences in his work already in 1980, with Мертвые Ласки Века, До… / This Century’s Dead Caresses, Up Until… (1980), a highly sophisticated composition reminiscent both of Kasimir Malevitch’s interpretation of Russian folk art and of Vladimir Lebedev’s poster art (see Chapter4). At that time Kozlov was a member of the group “Letopis”, the style of which Novikov described as “primitive art, primitivism and expression” leading to a “somewhat wild output”. Contrary to Novikov’s description of a collective style, Kozlov’s composition is carefully structured and worked out.
Returning to what I said about the other New artists, their attachment to a particular style, the situation looks somewhat different only towards the end of the 1980s, when there is a certain trend towards a “cleaner” style – for instance in the works of Kotelnikov and Bugaev – possibly influenced by Novikov’s minimalism. I will be more specific about these changes in Chapter 6.
An explicit Mayakovskian style manifested itself, however, only in 1988 – when Andrey Khlobystin and his sister Maya Khlobystina first exhibited their works together with the New Artists at the Sverdlov House of Culture, Leningrad. It is not the first time Mayakovsky’s compositional features were adapted by a New artist: Kozlov did so in 1983, as I will show in chapter 4. But it is the first time we find an unmistakable interpretation of Mayakovsky. It emerged only towards the end of the New Artists’ existence as a group, and also from outside the “old” group.
So what motivated Novikov’s statement? Registering the “Club of Friends of V. V. Mayakovsky” (Клуб друзей В.В.Маяковского / Klub druzey V. V. Maiakovskogo) with the local authorities in September 1986, when, at the beginning of perestroika, a new Soviet law finally permitted the existence of “amateur associations and interest clubs”, Novikov pursued a practical aim: to obtain premises for his art group. To use Mayakovsky‘s name for it – a household name in the Soviet Union – seemed to be helpful, as the club’s members, the New Artists, could pretend to further engage themselves in the noble task of paying homage to Mayakovsky, with Mayakovsky evenings, Mayakovsky performances and a Mayakovsky memorial room – all part of the working plan for the first year. In my opinion, this fiction then spilled over to Novikov’s New Artists text from1986.
At the same time, Novikov put forward a pop-art concept: If Warhol featured Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, then why shouldn‘t the New Artists feature Mayakovsky & Co? After all, we may add, every country has its pop artists selecting what seems to be relevant for the country’s history: Germany, for instance, has Gerhard Richter, who featured, in the 1970s, members of the Red Army Faction, the so-called Baader-Meinhof Gang.
What is more, American rock singer Joanna Stingray, who was befriended with Leningrad rock singers and artists, but also knew Andy Warhol personally, was able to establish a link between Warhol, the personification of pop art, and her Russian friends. In her article “The New Artists are Coming”, Ekaterina Andreeva describes this link:
From a Russian point of view, the problem with western pop culture is that it’s alleged shallowness is so successful, which in turn makes it so attractive even to those who criticise its shallowness. So what you want is a Russian brand that is more profound or meaningful than western pop art, doesn’t care about money (is utopian), but is just as successful – and that will not lose its depth as its becomes commercially successful. In other words, what you want to do is squaring the circle. Mayakovsky’s name possessed the potential to work in this direction.
The Mayakovsky Friends Club, though, never became an analogy of Warhol’s Factory – it simply never received premises for its own activities, unlike the NCh-VCh (НЧ-ВЧ), founded in the same way as the Mayakovsky Friends Club as a registered association with the Vodokanal Club in 1986. Thanks to the engagement of its director Oleg Sumarokov, the NCh-VCh acquired a certain degree of institutional independence. It became a venue for concerts and exhibitions and attracted a number of artists, many from the circle of the New Artists, especially from the “second” generation of the New Artists who, like Inal Savchenkov with the “Engineers of Art” or Oleg Maslov with the “New Wild Ones”, also formed their own groups.
The Mayakovsky Friends Club, on the other hand, remained a name the New Artists sometimes used (until 1990) to promote their own exhibitions and parties, thus providing their activities with some of Mayakovsky’s glamour. Among those activities was a Mayakovsky Friends Club exhibition at the NCh-VCh on the occasion of Mayakovsky’s 95th birthday, in the summer of 1988. A picture from Ágnes F. Horváth’s archive shows a section of the exhibition with works by Ivan Sotnikov, Oleg Maslov, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, and Igor “Sten” Smirnov. Smirnov’s large portrait of Mayakovsky might have been the clearest reference to the concept of the exhibition, but like Andrey Khlobystin and Maya Khlobystina, Smirnov participated at New Artists exhibitions only starting in 1988 – shortly before the New Artists dissolved or disintegrated as a group.
Presumably, the concept of paying homage to Mayakovsky was more attractive to some newcomers than to those “old” New artists – at least it doesn’t seem that those “old” New artists started creating Mayakovsky’s portraits, as did Smirnov and Khlobystin. The New Artists portrayed each other instead. But once the Mayakovsky Friends Club had been established for formal purposes, its myth expanded, and it took on a life of its own, as a label, last but not least because Bugaev and Novikov had an interest in promoting their own functions at the Mayakovsky Friends Club, as chairman and deputy chairman, respectively, and, in the case of Novikov, as head (chairman) of the fine arts section. The catalogue of the Young Unknowns Gallery for 7 Independent Artists Live from Leningrad demonstrates this principle.
Having said that, Russian avant-garde styles did play a role in the works of the New Artists, but such influences on their art manifested themselves much before 1986, as I will discuss in the next chapters.
Yet to speak of developing an ”innovative tradition” of native roots, as Novikov did in 1986, is creating an oxymoron: either you are a New artist or you follow a tradition.
If Novikov had in mind that Russian artists have always been innovative and that Mayakovsky is just one example among many others, then to follow this tradition means disruption. It means to create something absolutely new, leaving Mayakovsky and his Futurist manifesto from 1912 behind – just as Mayakovsky had demanded to Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity.
To promote a native or national heritage, on the other hand, means continuity. It means to be conservative, which is not a bad thing at all, especially if you haven‘t been aware of these roots before – but in this case you are not innovative.Therefore, the question is not whether any such native or national influences appeared in the work of a particular New artist – they obviously did – but how this very artist was using such features in a particular work. To say that this artist pursued the purpose of strengthening and cultivating innovative native traditions is political propaganda in the tradition of Soviet party speak; with regard to art, it is nonsense.
 TEII = ТЭИИ – Товариществo экспериментального изобразительного искусства
 Novikov, who was not always entirely consistent with his artists lists, gives the names of founding members on several occasions. The five names of Khazanovich, Kozlov, Kotelnikov Novikv and Sotnikov are in Novikov’s (Potapov’s) “The New Artists” text from 1986 and in his lecture “The New Artists” from March 2002 for the Pro Arte Institute, Saint Petersburg. The latter is available online https://docplayer.ru/25805056-Lekciya-byla-prochitana-v-institute-pro-arte-v-marte-2002-goda.html and in print form in Russian and English in the catalogue “Timur”, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow 2013, ed. by Ekaterina Andreeva, Nelly Podgorskaya and Ksenia Novikova, pp. 110
These five artists participated in a 1984 group exhibition at Novikov’s squat “ASSA Gallery” to which I dedicated an extensive research in 2017, availabe at http://www.e-e.eu/ASSA-Gallery/index.htm
 Potapov, Igor (pseud. Timur Novikov)
“Novye Khudozhniki” (Russian) [“Новые художники”] “The New Artists” (English), 1986
In: Novye Khudozhniki [Новые художники] / The New Artists, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, edited by Ekaterina Andreeva and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, p. 27
 Andreeva, Ekaterina, “The New Artists are Coming” in: The New Artists. Edited by Ekaterina Andreeva and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, pp. 23
 Soviet and post-Soviet pop art, better known as Sots art, became popular in the West to some degree through Alexander Kosalopov’s Coca Cola / Lenin paintings and the slightly more refined “Nostalgic Socialist Realism series” by Komar and Melamid, but by and large, it has taken its place as “exotica” in the cabinet of curiosity. The boundaries between Sots art and Moscow conceptualism (Kabakov, Prigov and others) are not always clearly defined, for instance with regard to Grisha Bruskin, but generally speaking, Moscow conceptualism is considered to be more complex than Sots art.
 The institutional side of the Mayakovsky Friends Club will be the subject of my article The New Artists and the Mayakovsky Friends Club. See Introduction.
The abbreviation NChVCh stands for Nizkie Chastoty / Vysokie Chastoty (“Низкие Частоты / Высокие частоты”), or Low Frequency / High Frequency. According to Andrei Khlobystin, New artist Oleg Kotelnikov created NChVCh as a band name for his own band in 1983, by analogy with the band name of AC/DC, an abbreviation of “alternating current / direct current”.
Khlobystin, Andrei. Shizorevolutsiia,(Schizorevolution) [Шизореволуция] Saint Petersburg: Borey Art, 2017, p. 257
 Ibid. p. 73
 7 Independent Artists Live from Leningrad. Young Unknowns Gallery, London 1988. Catalogue. Web 3 October 2020.
See also Chapter 6.
 David Burliuk, Alexander Kruchenykh, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Victor Khlebnikov: Пощёчина общественному вкусу / Slap in the Face of Public Taste, 15 December 1912. Web 20 August 2020.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020