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(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s • No.115 >>
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Catherine Mannick, and Hannelore Fobo papers, 1979-2022 (inclusive)
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection Harvard University>>
Catherine Mannick and (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov started exchanging letters immediately after they first met in Leningrad in the summer of 1979, when the young American law student visited the Soviet Union together with her friend Ann; the correspondence, written in Russian, continued up to 1990. While Kozlov kept the vast majority of Mannick’s letters – sixty all in all – his friend chiefly kept those related to his art, for instance double cards with a painted collage on the cover. The total number of Kozlov’s letters preserved amounts to eighteen. They also include a telegram and notes on pictures, but for the sake of simplicity, in my nomenclature, all written documents go as “letters”, numbered alphabetically from A to R in chronological order.
Mannick’s letters often display three different dates: the day she wrote them, the date stamped by the US post office on the envelope, and the date stamped by the post office of Leningrad’s Petrodvorets (Peterhof) borough, marking the letter’s arrival before it was delivered it to the addressee.
These dates helped reconstruct the chronology of the correspondence, which I did in 2021, shortly before Mannick’s letters kept in Kozlov’s archive and Kozlov’s letters and notes kept in Mannick’s archive joined each other at Fung Library in 2022, where they are now part of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection more>>. Kozlov’s gifts to Mannick – drawings, prints, a sculpture and a painted T-shirt – make another important contribution to the collection, generously donated by his friend to Davis Center.
T-shirt "Napravlenie", from the cycle B(L)ACK ART more>>, front and reverse
mixed media on cotton, 1985
E-E archival number: E-E-185030
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University
On average, letters from Boston to Peterhof and vice versa took three weeks, and messages sometimes crossed each other. Numerous photographs in Mannick‘s archive – Kozlov’s and Mannick’s slides and Kozlov’ vintage prints – illustrate the correspondence. Mannick kept most of Kozlov’s vintage prints in a box of their own and preserved the slides in a digital format on a hard disc more>>, although some were also printed. In many cases, such “loose” pictures could be related to specific letters.
Following the introduction, I intend to present Kozlov’s letters on eighteen separate pages, each provided with introductory notes. Letter A (October 1979 more>>) and Letter L (October 1986 more>>) provide examples. With few exceptions, additional (“loose”) material will not be included in these pages. Catherine Mannick’s letters, all pictures and Kozlov’s gifts, as well as documents explaining the chronology of the letters can be accessed on-site at Fung Library.
The secludedness of the Soviet society notwithstanding, making friends with foreigners from so-called “capitalist countries” was not unusual among young artists, especially those who like Kozlov belonged to the “unofficial” art-scene of Moscow or Leningrad / Saint Petersburg. Both cities saw an influx of international visitors – not only tourists, but also students remaining for some longer time, studying Russian or other subjects at Moscow’s and Leningrad's universities. Embassy and consulate staff and the gatherings they organised also played a major role in establishing contacts with foreigners more>>.
In Kozlov’s archive, there are a number of letters from Germany and the United States dating to the mid-seventies, which show that he had long been interested in communicating with the “outer” world. Quite often, it was Kozlov’s close friend Kolya Vlasov, an outgoing, extroverted young man and English teacher, who made the first contact. Vlasov had the privilege of living all on his own in a small apartment in the centre of town, where Kozlov would occasionally show his works to foreign students.
It was with Vlasov that Kozlov met Catherine Mannick and her friend Ann in the summer of 1979, when the two American students were on a trip through the Soviet Union. Pictures from Mannick’s archive show Vlasov, Kozlov and herself in Vlasov’s apartment looking at Kozlov’s drawings. Put differently, Kozlov introduced himself to Mannick as an artist, and their correspondence reflects his artistic quest.
The correspondence between Mannick and Kozlov is, however, exceptional in yet another aspect. Lasting for eleven years, it covers a remarkably long period of time – and a period which was in itself remarkable, the pre-perestroika and perestroika years. Political changes also had an impact on Kozlov’s activities as an artist, as they opened new opportunities for exhibitions and international projects he discussed in his letters. Yet apart from exchanging news, the correspondence is mainly of a private character, allowing Mannick and Kozlov to talk about and explain the feelings they were experiencing for each other. Although they were important for Kozlov as well as for Mannick, the situation provided few opportunities for personal encounters, especially with Kozlov remaining stuck in Leningrad. Over time, it became obvious to him that his romantic expectations were not met. On the other hand, as his first and main concern was and has always been art, art set the priority with regard to his personal life.
While Kozlov and Mannick never discussed political matters, their friendship inspired an important aspect of Kozlov’s art from the 1980s – works that, in retrospective, can be subsumed under the heading “CCCP-USA” (CCCP being USSR in Russian).
These works display the superpowers as polar forces interacting with each other in manifold ways. The earliest such work, a gouache painting from 1980, is called “This Century’s Dead Caresses, Up Until….”, with a second title “The Outward Appearance of the Relationship Between the Two World Powers”. The last one, “CCCP-USA. Points of Contact”, is a large painting on jute from 1989 portraying this bipolarity being overcome (see below). This is why “CCCP-USA. Points of Contact” was chosen, retrospectively, as the title for the correspondence.
The inscription “CCCP-USA” first appears on a painting from 1986 Kozlov discusses in two successive letters (Letter J, Letter K). Catherine Mannick documented the painting during her visit to Leningrad in October 1986. Her colour photos, now part of “CCCP-USA. Points of Contact” at Fung Library, constitute important archival material, because soon after, the artist burnt his painting fearing political repression.
Later, the letters composing “CCCP-USA” appear in other variations, such as “CuCsCaP (One hundred questions and answers)” from 1987 more>>. Interestingly, in 1987, Kozlov also painted “CHINA-USSR”, in which both protagonists are depicted as guitarists. China is seen to have joined the concert of the world powers. For his 1987 birthday greetings to Mannick, Kozlov used a vintage print showing himself next to this painting (possibly letter N).
Correspondence and presents
To Kozlov, being able to communicate in Russian was certainly a precondition for maintaining the correspondence with his friend Catherine. He was fluent in art, but not in English, although he did attend private English classes. But in Russian, his writing style is elegant, if not literary, and displays the great care he took in expressing his thoughts and reflections in an interesting, and sometimes paradoxical and humorous way (“I received you letter with great pleasure. What a pity you didn’t fit in the envelope, you are just too small”, Letter B). His descriptions, whether of his state of mind or the activities he pursued, are colourful, and he often addresses his friend directly, asking for her opinion on different matters – including his art – or commenting on her thoughts. In this way, his texts come as close as possible to a direct conversation, and it is essential that his idea of a continuous dialogue was taken up by his friend, even though the intervals between two letters could amount to several months.
The artist often integrated drawings and collages into his letters, texting them on the reverse or fixing them to the writing paper or card, but sometimes enclosed them as loose inserts. In his Diary III, page 85 (from early 1983) more>>, Kozlov drew a table with dimensions of envelopes accepted by the post office, which allowed him to create such envelopes himself. The largest accepted size was 229 x 314 mm, just large enough for A4 sheets, which limited the dimension of artworks he could send via a letter. In October 1980, he created a gouache drawing directly on the envelope (Letter C).
As Kozlov printed his own pictures in his photo-laboratory, he frequently sent pictures of himself or of those of his friends Mannick knew, and sometimes included black and white reproductions of his art. In the second half of the 1980s, however, the focus shifted to the Leningrad art-scene. A number of colour reproductions (slides) of his own works as well as those of his artist friends also found their way to the States. Like those pictures Mannick took in Leningrad, these slides now exist in a digitised format more>>.
Parcels containing presents were sent both ways, as presents constituted an important aspect of Mannick’s and Kozlov’s friendship. The letters mention numerous birthday gifts and parcels. Whenever possible, letters, and, especially, presents were given to friends or acquaintances traveling back and forth. On those few occasions Mannick and Kozlov were able to meet personally, they gave them over directly. Thus, Kozlov gave Mannick a hand-carved wooden statuette of a Halloween wizard during their second meeting, in October 1982 in Moscow.
At that time, Mannick began her studies at Moscow University, and until June 1983, when she left, they were able to see each other several times. Mannick again briefly visited Leningrad in October 1984 and in October 1986. Their next encounter took place in Moscow in early 1990, followed by a last one in Leningrad in the spring of 1990.
Books and records arrived from both sides, such as a Philip Glass record sent from Boston, but there were also more exotic gifts, for instance Mannick’s Nike sneakers and Kozlov’s tubateika, a central Asian skull cap. Among Kozlov’s larger art gifts was a T-shirt from 1985 painted in his “B(L)ack Art” new wave style (see above) and “The River of Forgetfulness” from 1988, a work on paper in a 102 x 247 format.
The Leningrad art-scene
Kozlov pictures of the 1981 Letopis exhibition at Timur Novikov’s place constitute an early example of his vintage prints documenting an exhibition. They display both his solo show (February; more>>) as well as the Letopis group show (March more>>; the corresponding letter is no longer available).
Starting in 1984, pictures, collages, and descriptions also document the New Artists group, considered to be the follow-up group to Letopis before becoming Leningrad’s most influential avant-garde group. The New Artists’ beginning is generally dated to 1982, but it is in 1984 members started to consolidate as a group through exhibitions and performances. Photographer Alexander Boyko documented the exhibits of the 1984 exhibition of the five founder members at Novikov’s place (soon to be known as ASSA gallery) with colour slides. In October 1984, Kozlov gave Mannick these slides when she visited Leningrad more>>.
Kozlov himself initiated several New Artists performances, like Fashion Show (Letter K).
Musicians and performers close to the New Artists also appear at Fashion Show more>> and in other photo shoots. Examples are two series of pictures from Pop Mekhanika (Popular Mechanics) performances, one taken at the Leningrad Rock Club (Letter I) and another one at the Leningrad Youth Palace (1986; Letter L).
Letter N features, among others, New Artists paintings at Timur Novikov’s art-squat and gallery ASSA.
Kozlov gave particular attention to New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev, his close friends. They appear not only in pictures and painted collages, but also in his texts.
In Letter H (1985), he mentions his photo shoot with the New Composers for a forthcoming album, actually an album created together with Sergey Kuryokhin and released as Popular Mechanics – Insect Culture in Liverpool, 1987, with one of Kozlov’s pictures on the cover. In Letter N (autumn 1987), Kozlov discusses this album in more detail see above. Yet it is not only the creative side of art that interests him, but the monetary aspect, too. He therefore asks his American friend whether she thinks that he could still receive a license fee for his unpaid contribution to the album.
Apart from presenting the Leningrad art-scene to Mannick, Kozlov also seeks to promote his own art. In the same letter N, he writes about a forthcoming New Artists exhibition in Sweden (The New from Leningrad finally opened in August 1988 at the Kulturhuset, Stockholm, with Kozlov’s portrait of Timur Novikov as logo more>>). He asks Mannick whether she has any ideas for his musical or artistic collaboration with American groups. Some years later, thanks to perestroika, things go ahead rather well. In 1989, Paul Judelson, a young New York gallerist just starting his business with the New Artists, sells some of his paintings more>>. The same year, Kozlov opens Russkoe Pole (The Russian Field), a spacious studio in the centre of Leningrad and writes his friend that he plans to visit the States in the spring of 1990 on the occasion of an exhibition (Letter Q, December 1989). In Letter R (March 1990), he again confirms his plan for the upcoming spring, with a studio awaiting him in New York.
Letter R seems to be the last one he wrote Mannick, and one might conclude from this that he indeed left Leningrad for the States soon after, but this wasn’t the case. He actually never went, the main reason being that his studio Russkoe Pole, The Russian Field, or Ruskoee Polee, as he soon started calling it, offered him ideal conditions for creating large works. It also allowed him to invite his artist friends to build up his important collection of contemporary Russian art “2x3m”, an ongoing project more>>.
At the same time, The Russian Field became a hot spot for international curators and artists. This is where I first met Evgenij Kozlov in May 1990. When he had to close his studio in 1991, he eventually moved to Berlin, where we opened “Ruskoee Polee 2” in a large factory loft in the former eastern part of the city (1994-2008) more>>.
Conclusion. USA-CCCP. Points of Contact.
In this way, Kozlov‘s correspondence with Catherine Mannick, lasting from 1979 to 1990, overlaps with his most active artistic period of his Leningrad years. During those years, the relation between America and the Soviet Union was one of many topics he explored. As in his other work, he did so in manifold ways, applying different styles, including graffiti, comics, and constructivism.
The USA-CCCP polarity, of course, plays a role in the work of a number of artists, but in the main, their works focus on the confrontation of ideological-consumerist symbols of a “Lenin – Mickey Mouse” type. A typical example is a Lenin – Mickey Mouse carpet design from 1990 by Austrian action artist Wolfgang Flatz. A post-Soviet example is Russian-American conceptualist Alexander Kosolapov’s sculpture Hero, Leader, God from 2007, depicting Lenin, Mickey Mouse, and Christ.
What distinguishes Kozlov’s approach from that of other artists becomes apparent in the constructivist painting USA-CCCP. Points of Contact from 1989. It is one of the last works he dedicated to this polarity, taking up a design first worked out in 1988.
In this painting, the USA and the CCCP are portrayed as a couple, a woman and a man, with the question of who represents who being left to the viewer. Each has a black dot and a red dot on their head and stomach, though in reverse. They symbolise a human being’s most important properties: the brain and the reproductive organs. These dots, or points, are the “points of contact”. They are distributed in a manner akin to a self-mirroring yin-yang symbol (the taijitu), representing complementary forces, such as female and male, earth and heaven. The viewer intuitively joins these points together to form two diagonally-crossing lines – a cross of St Andrew – Crux Decussata, thus creating an equilibrium in the dynamic force of the two poles. more>>
Introducing complementarity, USA-CCCP. Points of Contact proposes a new approach to the question of the polar forces defining America and the Soviet Union – and today, Russia. Without negating polarity, the composition features synthesis as a third element, created by human thought. In this way, the artist’s intuition goes beyond the obvious, thus stimulating spiritual evolution.
Could Kozlov have created this work without his friendship with Catherine Mannick? A spontaneous answer would be, yes, he could. Given the fact that artistic intuition leaves the realm of daily life experience, it would be wrong to establish a simple cause and effect relation. But would he still have created it? Kozlov’s and Mannick’s friendship created individual points of contact between America and the Soviet Union, and although the composition is not reflecting their personal relationship, it is highly probable that it motivated the artist to find, through art, a universal answer to what remains an unsolved conflict otherwise.
Hannelore Fobo, December 2022
 Kozlov dedicated himself to this question at intervals. The focus was on the second half of the 1980s, when he developed it side by side with portraiture and multi-figure compositions. In 2018, when writing the catalogue text of Kozlov’s 2018 solo exhibition “USA-CCCP-CHINA”, I related 164 of a total of roughly 850 works documented for 1980 to 1989 to this topic, including works that feature only American or only Soviet subject matters.
Published 20 February 2023
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