(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: art >>
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov • White on Red
Five paintings from 1987
|Page 1: Image and sign|
|Page 2: White on Red|
|Page 3: Star|
|Page 4: Star. 6. Figures|
|Page 5: CCCP|
|Page 6: The Human Being comes First
|Page 7: Smiling Sickle|
|Page 8: Exhibitions|
Star. 6 Figures
A huge white figure dominates the composition: the abstract figure of a man pointing, with a declamatory gesture, towards a star. It is the same star that we have seen in the previous painting, but it has now moved to the left upper corner – a small distant star. The diagonal line of the figure’s arm cuts through a compact red rectangle, which makes the gesture even more expressive. It is an assertive, not an aggressive gesture – the hand is open, with the thumb slightly extended.
This geometric figure, entirely defined by its contours, first appeared on sketches from 1987. Combining triangles, trapezoids and squares, Kozlov designed this figure with straight lines, some slightly bent. Like a kouros, the archaic Greek sculpture of a male youth, it has a strong body, powerful chest, broad shoulders and a slim waistline. Characteristic of this figure is its small rectangular head. The sketches display a number of variations with regard to proportions: some figures are more compact, others elongated.
One pencil drawing displays the figure‘s body subdivided into ten black and white segments, like a chessboard. It is reminiscent of the black and white alternations present in some Malevich‘s suprematist figures. Malevich’s radical reduction of figures to basic geometrical forms might have inspired Kozlov to some extent. At least we can establish such parallels to Kozlov‘ gouaches of colourful sculptural figures from 1980.
But there are also some important differences: Malevich presented his figures as immobile stills, Kozlov presented his figures with dynamic gestures; Malevich kept the frontality of folk art, Kozlov added lateral views to front views, which allowed him show the figures in motion.
Similar poses can be found in many variations of Lenin statues and monuments, for instance at Lenin Square in Saint Petersburg.On the left, below the star, the group of five smaller figures is depicted in a side view. They are synchronised like a corps de ballet, each figure slightly overlapping the next standing behind, one foot grounded on the earth, and the other one, positioned slightly behind, balancing on tiptoes.
Vera Mukhina‘s emblematic double statue “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” (1937) displays such vertically uplifted arms, raising the symbols of communism, the hammer and the sickle. But Mukhina‘s figures are moving forward, while Kozlov‘s figures are stretching out towards a distant star.
If we compare the painting with the pencil sketch, we can say that the repetitive alignment of the five figures in the pencil drawing has given way to a vivacious white-red-white-red-white choreography in the painting. It is a swinging rhythm of augmentation and diminution, of breathing out and breathing in. The geometrical contours of the red figures have been partially softened or cut with shades of white, while each of the white figures has been supplied with an additional, dreamlike red figure – thin, etheric beings floating within the limbs of their hosts. The five figures now form an intriguing pattern, and it is impossible to count them at one glace.
As in Star, motion lines keep these movements in place; here the lines are horizontal. A white rectangle in the lower right corner, originally a pedestal, constitutes another subtle detail. The large figure‘s legs are standing on this very “void”, which works against the figure‘s statuesque gravity.
Star. 6 Figures shares yet another feature with Star; the red “in-built” frame with irregular borders. But here the red borders are smaller and the contours are somewhat smoother, without any such peaks as displayed by the wavy zigzags of Star.
White scabs of paint that dripped off from the horizontal brushstrokes are another element to create irregularity. They appear here and there, sometimes placed intentionally – just often enough so that we perceive them as unexpected elements. The same applies to the other four paintings of the Red on White cycle – and many other of Kozlov’s paintings, too. Like Jackson Pollock, Evgenij Kozlov is intrigued with dripping paint to orchestrate chance, but unlike Pollock, Kozlov integrates this technique into concrete art compositions.
Such features have become increasingly important in E-E’s later works, when the artist started framing splashes of colours and dots by circles and ellipses. In this way, their function stands in inverse proportion to their smallness. In a note from 2015, Kozlov wrote:
A large multicolour painting on paper from 1987 displays another combination of one large figure and a group of smaller figures, similar to Star. 6 Figures. Its size is 171 x 354 cm, and it is entitled CuCsCaP (Сто вопросов и ответов) / CuCsCaP (One hundred questions and answers). Evgenij Kozlov’s sketch for this work shows the large figure to the left. We only see its mighty legs, suspended in mid-air, as the rest of the body is beyond the format of the paper. Behind its left leg a skyscraper appears, which helps us to assess the size of the single figure: it must be gigantic. To the right, four smaller figures point towards it.
To transfer this sketch to a painting, Kozlov created a surface consisting of approximately 250 of his vintage prints of Leningrad artists and musicians. He covered these photos with translucent magenta, blue, and yelllow ink, turned the paper upside down, and framed it with strips made from black photo paper bags.
Using a large variety of techniques – flat silhouettes, thick filled or unfilled one-colour outlines, dripped or dotted lines, and stencilling – he then applied the figures as described above, completing them with a zigzagging pattern of stars along the upper border, several arrows, stencilled lettering on the lower border, and some other elements.
As a result, and despite its formal similarities to Star. 6 Figures, CuCsCaP is much closer to American graffiti art than to Russian constructivism, although we might just as well say that in CuCsCaP, these two styles form a new style. The title might give us a clue. CuCsCaP can be deconstructed as CCCP and USA, and the letters are rhythmically intertwined.
How exactly CCCP and USA are related to each other is leading us to the title’s second part: One hundred questions and answers. Evgenij Kozlov gave an answer in two constructivist works from 1988 and 1989: Points of Contact depict CCCP and USA as Man and Woman, without, however, determining which gender represents CCCP or USA.
Text: Hannelore Fobo, April/May 2020
Uploaded 4 May 2020