(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.     Berlin                                                  

      E-E Evgenij Kozlov: Exhibitions

Young Unknowns Gallery

7 Independent Artists
Live from Leningrad

Feb 2nd - 27th, 1988

co-curated by Peter Sylveire

Sergei Bugaev, Timur Novikov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Ivan Sotnikov, Vadim Ovchinnikov, Andrey Krisanov, Andrey Klobystin, Georgy Gurianov, Inal Savchenkov, Igor Potapov, Irena Kuksenaite, Evgenij Kozlov

Texts from the exhibition booklet

The History and Principles of the ‘New Artists’
By Timur Novikov (chairman of the fine arts section of the Club of Friends of V.V. Mayakovksy).

The ‘New Artists’ are based mainly in Leningrad. They strive for innovation but this can’t be considered the goal of the group. They term themselves ‘New’ as indication of age. They are like brand-new trams, taking the place of obsolete, worn-out models on the metal track. The group was formed from artists who have grown up since the new artistic atmosphere commenced in the Soviet Union. Right from the start they had the possibility of showing their work at official exhibitions and did not experience the overwhelming pressure of ‘illicitness’ so poisonous to the previous generation of artistic avant-gardists. Democracy is one of the main marks of all the activity of the group. The artists strive for clarity of content and production of the most easily accessible media of expression, practising this accessibility especially in the exhibited work.

The ‘New Artists” antecedents, the ‘Letopis’ group, made its first appearance in 1977, forming around the artist Boris Koshelokhov who had been painting for thirty-three years. The main orientations of this group were expressionism and primitivism. It began its existence by exhibiting in the artist’s flats or those of friends. The young artists preferred mutual contacts and independence to the formal system of artistic education, rejected the latter, and embraced self-education. The wildness of their work shocked not only official but also ‘leftist’ artists and only with the greatest reluctance were they permitted to participate even in the avant-garde exhibitions. Therefore the artists began to exhibit ‘all over’ – in parks, out-of-town-beaches, in forests, on streets. It was only in 1979 that they organized the first officially sanctioned group exhibition.

As the years passed by a new group appeared within the ‘Letopis’ and in 1982 they styled themselves the ‘New Artists’. The ‘New Artists’ are not so serious or dogmatic as their predecessors; something not fitting into theory is not commented upon, there is no battle of ideas, everyone likes and respects one another.

The artists have never exhibited for their own purposes, they interest a wide spectrum of youth culture. The world of cinema was the first to take notice and a relationship grew in which cinema workers began painting and the artists began to take part in scree animation, decoration of scenery and actual film-making.

A similar process can be observed in the new mutual relationship with music. In 1984 a parallel association appeared – the ‘New Composers’ Concerts were given at exhibitions of ‘New Artists’, many painters began to involve themselves in musical activities, having contacts with such notable groups as ‘Kino’, ‘Strange Games’ and ‘Aquarium’. The greatest synthesis of music and Fine Art painters is reached at the concerts of Sergei Kuryokhin’s orchestra, ‘Popular Mechanics’. At these concerts yet another side of the ‘New’ cultural activity is revealed – the ‘New Theatre’, whose members perform on stage as one part of the performance as a whole. It is this music which accompanies the exhibition.

By working in various genres the artists educate themselves and gain both in personal insight and in general cognisance. Studying art they could not help noticing kindred movements in Western culture. For a time the movement was influenced by contemporary German and French art, also by American graffiti, comics and computer graphics. However the emergence of perestroika (reconstruction) stimulated self-consciousness and the victory of our roots over Western influence.

The ‘New Artists’ formed the Club of Friends of V. V. Mayakovsky with the purpose of strengthening and developing a patriotic, innovative tradition. Almost all the artists joined along with composers, workers in the new theatre and cinema, several rock musicians, art experts and collectors. The club has no official status but manifests itself through various official youth organisations. In this way the artists preserve their informality and save themselves from inevitable bureaucratism and official obligations.

Glasnost, Perestroika and the Arts.

By Paul Easton

As a regular visitor to the Soviet Union over the last few years I have been lucky enough to witness a great creative ferment. Undoubtedly the new situation prevalent in the Gorbachev era has contributed to this but it was already starting in the mid-1970s. The relaxation of controls on creative activity neither commissioned nor sanctioned by the state has not so much been a concession to young people but a recognition that their activities, by force of popularity alone, have proved unstoppable.

As part of the process of reconciliations with an embittered and cynical section of youth, the Soviet State, and especially the press, has been paying much attention recently to such exponents of the ‘New’ culture as the ‘New Artists’. As the ‘New Artists’ make clear in their statement, it is impossible to look to any particular artistic genre in isolation. The relationships between art, music, film etc. are so close as to be barely distinguishable. It is increasingly hard to term someone a painter or a musician as so many individuals participate in all spheres of cultural activity. As art, visual or other, is about communication the effects of glasnost (openness) have been more strongly felt in the cultural realm than in any other so far. Freed from the contraints of close censorship and the refusal of access to official buildings, the ‘New Movement’ flourishes as never before. Obviously there will be casualties. Not all artists thrive under relaxed conditions. It is equally certain that much will emerge which will be judged of no artistic validity. However this is a normal phenomenon that derives form an attempt to normalise conditions in the country.

Gorbachov’s policies are creating a new revolution in the Soviet Union. Certainly the ‘New Artists’ believe in this and are striving, along with others in the field of youth culture, to open the floodgates to a new wave of creative talent basing itself on the tradition of that which followed the October revolution in 1917.


Some thoughts about the closing exhibition of the "Young Unknowns Gallery" in 1991

by Peter Sylveire.




You are warmly invited to the opening of EARTHSOUND. It is the closing exhibition of the Young Unknowns Gallery. Andy Warhol foresaw a world where fame was so common, celebrity became a nonsense. Reading between the lines of his factory of the sixties, The young unknowns has in the recent past mounted anonymous open submission them shows, honouring art over its authors, songs more than singers. If collage embodies the spirit of our culture – from cubism in the 1910s (also anonymous) to house and world music now, anonymity (until sale) appears the natural enhancing context for such work which scatters authorship to the heavens. But this equation must exert itself like a nightmare in the mind of cultures’ proprietors and experts. The reality of the starsystem gave birth to the gesture of the Young Unknowns which has bloomed and struggled, in all its utopian grandeur, since 1985. Watch out for the feeling of the young unknowns which will reappear in different forms, at intervals in the future.