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      (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: art >>

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov • White on Red

Five paintings from 1987





(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov CCCP, paint on red calico, 197 x 583 cm, 1987 Exhibition The New from Leningrad. Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1988 more>> On the right is a work by Oleg Kotelnikov Photo: Fredrik Vogel

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
CCCP
White paint on red calico, 197 x 583 cm, 1987
Exhibition The New from Leningrad. Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1988 more>>
On the right is a work by Oleg Kotelnikov
Photo: Fredrik Vogel



CCCP

Script as an element of images has always been an important of feature of (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov‘s works, especially in his collages and works on paper, but to some extent in his paintings, too. Words and sentences have references and therefore imply meaning, and Kozlov would assign such meaning to images in a highly personal, associative way. But words also have a pure sound quality, especially when presented as syllables or broken into single letters. Last but not least, letters and numbers possess a distinct aesthetic form: cut-outs from newspapers and magazines display script with specific shapes and backgrounds, while dry-transfer (Letraset) letters and self-made templates allow for unusual arrangements of characters and spaces between them. Handwritten or sprayed lettering can be particularly ornamental, especially some Cyrillic letters like Я (ya), Ж (zh) or Ш (sh), typical for Kozlov‘s comic-graffiti-style works from 1985-1987.

In 1985/1986, Kozlov started experimenting with the abbreviation CCCP, the common term to refer to Союз Советских Социалистических Республик (SSSR, Soyuz Sovietskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik), which translates as Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR. One of these sketches displays a list of country names, most ending in ия (iya), such as Росс-и-я (Ross-i-ya. Russia) or Герман-и-я (German-i-ya, Germany). In the list, the artists separated the letters и and я with hyphens, because In Russian, these letters have a proper meaning: и is the conjunction “and” and я is the personal pronoun “I”. This gives room for interpretation. For instance, the particle Герман /German is a masculine given name, Herman; Герман-и-я / German-i-ya may therefore be translated as Herman and I.

 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Unitled Felt-tip pen on paper, 19 x 13 cm, 1985 or 1986 Inv. no. E-E-185015   (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Unitled; reverse side of the drawing on the left. Felt-tip pen on paper, 19 x 13 cm, 1985 or 1986 Inv. no. E-E-185015

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Unitled
Felt-tip pen on paper, 19 x 13 cm, 1985 or 1986
Inv. no. E-E-185015


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Unitled; reverse side of the drawing on the left.
Felt-tip pen on paper, 19 x 13 cm, 1985 or 1986
Inv. no. E-E-185015

Obviously, this sound game doesn‘t work with either USA or CCCP, so Kozlov invented phonetic transliterations: USA became USЭЙ and also ЮУЭС ЭЙ, while CCCP became Эс Эс Эс Сэр. The letter э reads like an e in met. Now we get u s ey, you u es ey, and es es es ser, respectively. 

We find a similar arrangement in a sketch assembling a Moscow sky-scraper and the famous Shukov Radio Tower, supplied with two vertical strips of letters: ЭСЭСЭСЭР and ЭКСЭКСЭКСЭКССССЭР. Both set of letters have connotations. If we divide the first word, ЭСЭСЭСЭР, into two halves, then its first part, ЭСЭС, reveals its phonetic identity with the German term SS, while the second part, ЭСЭР or ESER can be seen as a reference to эсеры (esery), the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries. (The SRs or Esers competed with the Bolsheviks at the time of the Russian Revolution, before the party was eliminated by the Lenin in in 1922.) As to the sound pattern of ЭКСЭКСЭКСЭКССССЭР – ЭКС or eks equals “ex”, therefore one possible interpretation is EXEXEXEXUSSR. In fact, the USSR would become the ex-USSR in 1991.


 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Unitled Felt-tip pen on paper, 13.2 x 9 cm, 1987 Inv. no. E-E-187038 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Unitled Felt-tip pen on paper, 9 x 13 cm, 1987 Inv. no. E-E-187125

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Unitled
Felt-tip pen on paper, 13.2 x 9 cm, 1987
Inv. no. E-E-187038


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Unitled
Felt-tip pen on paper, 9 x 13 cm, 1987
Inv. no. E-E-187125

The letter C has a very appealing form, especially when handwritten. Kozlov‘s C’s look like croissants or curly opening quotation marks, and like closing quotation marks when mirror inverted.

The artist created chains of “C”s, repeating the same letter not three times, but seven times – CCCCCCCP. The most impressive repetition appeared on a T-shirt: six rows consisting of six “C”s each, except for the last row, which ended in a P.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCP T-shirt, 1987 Inv. no. E-E-187025 Photo: Hannelore Fobo (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov АСС-Е СМЕРТЬ. (Георгий Гурьянов)/ DEATH TO ASSA (Georgy Guryanov) Mixed media on paper, 63 x 49, 1987 Inv. no. E-E-187018 Photo: Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCP
T-shirt, 1987
Inv. no. E-E-187025
Photo: Hannelore Fobo

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
АСС-Е СМЕРТЬ. (Георгий Гурьянов)/ DEATH TO ASSA (Georgy Guryanov)
Mixed media on paper, 63 x 49, 1987
Inv. no. E-E-187018
Photo: Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz

 Inv. no. E-E-187019

Inv. no. E-E-187019
This portrait features
imprints of liquid paint from drawings on two different T-shirts; one is the T-shirt on the left and the other is the one on the right.


The picture on the left sees E-E in his Peterhof studio "Glaxy Gallery in front of his painting "CHINA-USSR” The artist is wearing his T-shirt CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCP
The picture on the left sees E-E in his Peterhof studio "Glaxy Gallery in front of his painting "CHINA-USSR” The artist is wearing his T-shirt

Phonetically, the repetition of the s-sound, s-s-s-s-s, resembles the sound produced by a train running on the rails at constant speed – before it finally comes to a halt at the P: in this case the “P” must be pronounced as a Latin plosive p, and not as a Russian rolling r, which would rather be used to stop a horse pulling a carriage. As a matter of fact, Evgenij Kozlov pronounces CCCP both in Russian, as ES-ES-ES-ER, and, alternatively, in English – SEE-SEE-SEE-PEE, which offers possibilities to play with sounds. I will come back to this later.

At the same time, and contrasting these ornamental letters, Kozlov developed both the C and the P as three-dimensional block letters. Here, the C and P are almost square, slightly higher than wide, looking rather compact and somewhat technical. We find them, for instance, in the sketch of a personal computer, where CCCP has been inserted into the luminous digital background grid of the monitor. In the painting CCCP (Computer) that followed from this design, Kozlov kept the all-in-one design of keyboard and monitor – a computer design of the late 1970s and early 1980s – but removed the monitor’s grid and simplified the letters.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Untitled Pencil on paper, 13.5 22.1 cm, 1986 Inv. no. E-E-186085  (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Untitled Felt-tip pen and pencil on paper, 10.3 x 14.5 cm, 1986 Inv. no. E-E-186086

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Untitled
Pencil on paper, 13.5 22.1 cm, 1986
Inv. no. E-E-186085


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Untitled
Felt-tip pen and pencil on paper, 10.3 x 14.5 cm, 1986
Inv. no. E-E-186086

 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Untitled Felt-tip pen and pencil on paper, 10.3 x 14.5 cm. 1986 Inv. no. E-E-186047  (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov СССР (Компьютер) / CCCP (Computer) Oil on canvas, 80 x 123 cm, 1987 Black and white reproduction Inv. no. E-E-187028

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Untitled
Felt-tip pen and pencil on paper, 10.3 x 14.5 cm. 1986
Inv. no. E-E-186047



(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
СССР (Компьютер) / CCCP (Computer)
Oil on canvas, 80 x 123 cm, 1987
Black and white reproduction
Inv. no. E-E-187028

In a next step, the artist adapted variations of these simplified block letters for his slogan ART из CCCP (Art from the USSR), completed with ART для USA (Art for the USA), or simply CCCP USA. Between 1987 and 1989, these slogans, and sometimes CCCP on its own, appear on objects and paintings – often in combination with constructivist motifs. This is why I defined this particular period of Kozlov‘s work as “Art from the USSR”. Strictly speaking, only part of Kozlov’s works from those years belong to the category of “Art from the USSR”, as figurative painting continues to play an important role. Yet the artist‘s systematic approach in developing a whole range of signs, shapes, and images to define art coming from the USSR makes “Art from the USSR” a logical definition – all the more so because E-E‘s methodical exploration of this concept makes him stand out among his fellow artists.


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
ART из CCCP / ART from the USSR (Comintern Street)
Object with bus stop sign, two-sided
Mixed media on wood, 42.5 x 59.9 x 2 cm, 1988 more >>
Inv. no. E-E-188041


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
ART из CCCP / ART from the USSR
Mixed media on offset print, 28.6 x 44 x 0.3 cm,1988
Inv. no. E-E-188053 more >>


CCCP from the White on Red series is by far the largest work from this period. The painting is in a 1.93 x 5.83 m format – eight panels of red calico sewn together at the selvedges and accomplished with hemlines on all four sides. A pattern of horizontal white stripes alternating with red lines half their width defines the background. Against this background, the red (unpainted) letters stand as negative shapes, each 114 cm high. Kozlov used the square block letters from CCCP (Computer). The letters are massive, determining the entire composition. They build a sort of chain: the C’s connect like chain links to the P, the end link. In the lower right corner, like a full stop behind the letters CCCP, is another, smaller red rectangle bearing Kozlov‘s signature.

 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Untitled Felt-tip pen on paper, 9 x 13.1 cm, 1987 Inv. no. E-E-187126   (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Untitled Felt-tip pen on paper, 9 x 13.1 cm, 1987 Inv. no. E-E-187127

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Untitled
Felt-tip pen on paper, 9 x 13.1 cm, 1987
Inv. no. E-E-187126


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Untitled
Felt-tip pen on paper, 9 x 13.1 cm, 1987
Inv. no. E-E-187127


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
CCCP
Detail with selvedge and stitching on the reverse of the painting.
Inv. no. E-E-187113
Photo: Hannelore Fobo

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
CCCP

Detail of the lower right bottom with Kozlov‘s signature and hemline.
Inv. no. E-E-187113
Photo: Hannelore Fobo


CCCP is, in fact, the largest painting Kozlov ever created in Leningrad / Saint Petersburg, although it is still smaller than his largest Berlin work, “Today in the LXXXI Century” from 1998, the size of which is 2.10 x 10 m.

However, working conditions were different in Leningrad, more precisely at “Galaxy Gallery” in Peterhof, the apartment Kozlov lived in until 1989. CCCP was too large for any of the walls of the apartment, and the material had to be fixed around the corner, to adjacent walls.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Page 1 of the album of painted photo-collages "It‘s the Fashion!”, 1984-1990 17.8 x 12.9 cm (folded, without paper clipping) Inv. no. E-E-pho-Y015-opc (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov at his apartment-studio "Galaxy Gallery", Peterhof, 1988.  On the wall, turned upside down, is a paper stencil for the painting "Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms consisting of Bones” more >> The white parallel stripes on the wall are imprints from CCCP painted in a year ealier.  The brush strokes, disconnected at regular intervals, show where the calico was taken off the wall to prevent it from getting stuck to the wallpaper. Inv. no. E-E-pho-CZ24

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Page 1 of the album of painted photo-collages "It‘s the Fashion!”, 1984-1990
17.8 x 12.9 cm (folded, without paper clipping)
Inv. no. E-E-pho-Y015-opc

The picture, taken at Kozlov‘s apartment-studio "Galaxy Gallery" shows the artist painting ARMY (mixed media on canvas, 69 x 93 cm, 1987, inv. no 187008); behind the easel is Oile (mixed media on canvas, 110 x 70 cm, 1987, inv.no 187017) more >>
These and some other paintings partly cover CCCP, but we can still see that CCCP is attached to two adjacent walls.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov at his apartment-studio "Galaxy Gallery", Peterhof, 1988.
On the wall, turned upside down, is a paper stencil for the painting "Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms consisting of Bones” more >>
The white parallel stripes on the wall are imprints from CCCP painted in a year ealier. The brush strokes, disconnected at regular intervals, show where the calico was taken off the wall to prevent it from getting stuck to the wallpaper.
Inv. no. E-E-pho-CZ24

Photo: Vadim Sadovnikov

Even so, the work had to be executed in several steps. The artist couldn’t just fix the fabric to the wall, carry out the design, and then take the finished painting off the wall. Because calico is very thin, the white paint seeped straight through it into the wallpaper. In order to keep the material from getting stuck to the wallpaper upon drying, Kozlov had to detach it while the paint was still moist, and since the paint dried quickly, he had to repeat this process a number of times. Traces of CCCP left on the wallpaper tell us how this was done.

Kozlov started with a vertical section of the painting of between 50 cm and one metre width, applying the paint in parallel stripes from top to bottom. Following this, he removed this piece from the wall before the paint had dried, and then fixed the fabric to the wall again to continue with the next section. The wallpaper shows these intervals as vertical breaks between the stripes or lines, and we also notice that the stripes continue slightly unaligned on the wallpaper. The composition itself, however, displays these stripes – twenty-three altogether – in a perfect parallel layout, giving us absolutely no reason to believe that they were the result of such laborious work. Only the back side of the painting reveals where exactly the brush strokes started and ended.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov CCCP Detail of the reverse side with one of the “C” letters.  Inv. no. E-E-187113 Photo: Hannelore Fobo

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
CCCP
Detail of the reverse side with one of the “C” letters.
Inv. no. E-E-187113
Photo: Hannelore Fobo

When asked (in 2020) why he chose such a large format for CCCP, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov answered that the Soviet Union was a large country and that a small format wouldn’t have done it justice. On the other hand, a work of 100 m length, although possible, wouldn‘t have made any sense – if you want to say that something is large, there is not much difference between large and very large. Therefore the idea was to choose a format that was large enough to be large. The size created for CCCP seemed perfect.

There is a slightly ironical note in this comment. We know, of course, that the Soviet propaganda loved to emphasise the CCCP’s unique grandeur (“One Sixth of the Earth”), and we also know that it cherished large figures, for instance with respect to the production output of the five-year-plans.

But when CCCP becomes SEE-SEE-SEE-PEE, this creates a number of associations with other Russian words, as Evgenij Kozlov found out over time. The reduplication of simple sounds generates a sort of baby talk, and  more associations appear when reading the abbreviation not only forward, but also backward: си-си (see-see), the plural form of сися (sisia), means female breast, and пи-си (pee-see), the plural form of пися (pisia) is the equivalent of English pee-pee or wee-wee. The magnified becomes small again!

There is a kind of inverted relation between the “real” Soviet flag and CCCP. The Soviet flag displays its emblem (hammer, sickle and star) like a modest appliqué piece, while in CCCP, the lettering covers most of the surface, leaving a border of just 40 cm on all sides. Yet, as we have seen, the meaning of CCCP is by no means unambiguous.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  CCCP White paint on red calico, 197 x 583 cm, 1987 Photo: Fredrik Vogel  Soviet banner 82 x 154.5 cm, print on red calico, produced in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin On the right are graphic works by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Photo: Hannelore Fobo, 2020

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

CCCP
White paint on red calico, 197 x 583 cm, 1987
Photo: Fredrik Vogel


Soviet banner
82 x 154.5 cm, print on red calico, produced in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.
The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin
On the right are graphic works by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Photo: Hannelore Fobo, 2020

Thus, is this painting a plurivalent sign? Or is it an image, in the same way as discussed for the other works from the White on Red cycle ? There can be no doubt – because of the multiple visual and sound references of CCCP, it is the one closest to a sign among these five works.

On the other hand, the white stripes break the dull monochromatic red that characterises the Soviet flag. I defined these white stripes as motion lines earlier. Because these white stripes are twice the size of the red stripes, this pattern confers the composition a degree of lightness and liveliness that softens the massive “squareness” of the letters: the letter seem to somehow “sit” loosely on the background. This would support the argument that CCCP not just a sign, but also is an image.

Yet, stripes are a typical feature of flags, especially in a horizontal arrangement. Looking for references, we shift once again from image to sign and find such a reference in the red and white stripes of the U.S. flag.

In Evgenij Kozlov‘s works, a reference to the U.S. flag appears as early as 1980. The painting Рюкзак / Rucksack (gouache on cardboard, 77 x 64 cm, 1980) displays a paraphrase of the American flag above a red-orange rucksack, and the flag’s soft texture is reminiscent of Jasper Johns’ iconographic portrayal of the American flag dating to 1954 / 55. (At the time, Johns was 24; Kozlov was the same age when he painted Rucksack.) In Kozlov‘s painting, white and red stripes, intersected by a light blue square, form a rectangular pattern, and these linear-angular shapes complement the rounded shape of the rucksack and the loose ends of its shoulder straps. Rucksack is doubtlessly an image.  

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Рюкзак / Rucksack Gouache on cardboard, 77 x 64 cm, 1980 Inv. no. E-E-180102 Photo: Andrey Kuznetsov  Jasper Johns Flag. Encaustic, oil and collage on fabric mounted on plywood 107.3 x 153.8 cm, 1954-55 Source: Wikipedia Fair Use

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Рюкзак / Rucksack
Gouache on cardboard, 77 x 64 cm, 1980
Inv. no. E-E-180102
Photo: Andrey Kuznetsov


Jasper Johns
Flag.
Encaustic, oil and collage on fabric mounted on plywood
107.3 x 153.8 cm, 1954-55
Source: Wikipedia Fair Use

Here we could stop the game of shifting between image and sign. It turns out that even the most obvious of Kozlov‘s "sign” paintings gets us into infinite regress, as a true work of art is a hybrid. If we return to the metaphor of a quantum system proposed in the introduction, (“it’s either the impulse or the location”), we may say that if a quantum object possesses a wave–particle duality, then a work of art possesses an image-sign duality. And when we no longer perceive its duality, is has become a mummified artefact, a simple sign.

There is, however, an addendum to these conclusions. It relates to the Liverpool 1989 Leningrad festival “Perestroika in the Avant-Garde”, which I mentioned earlier with respect to Kozlov‘s painting Star as the festival‘s logotype.

The festival‘s main exhibition took place at the Bluecoat Gallery, but there was also a parallel one-week exhibition at the Tate Gallery Liverpool – a so-called “exhibition of banners”, organised on the occasion of Timur Novikov‘s lecture about the New Artists at the Tate Liverpool on 1 February 1989.

 

The BBC festival documentary – available on YouTube in two parts under the heading "Sergei Kuriokhin & Pop-Mekahnika” more >> – shows Timur Novikov and Sergei Bugaev in the process of hanging Kozlov‘s painting CCCP to one of the walls of the Tate Liverpool. In the context of Novikov‘s and Bugaev‘s much smaller works, CCCP really looked like a huge banner – a banner any fan of Liverpool F.C. could have taken to support the team at Anfield. After all, Liverpool F.C. banners are painted White on Red





Uploaded 4 May 2020
Last updated 16 September 2020