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


      (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s • No.115 >>

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection • Harvard University

USA-CCCP. Points of Contact.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov – Catherine Mannick
Correspondence 1979 – 1990

Letter K (September 1986) – The Price of Art

Letter K is a short undated letter following Letter J from 29 August 1986, which can be inferred from the sentence

    В последнем письме писал тебе о картине „USA-СССР“, я совершил ее /
    In my last letter I wrote to you about the painting “USA-CCCP”, I have now finished it.

A detailed description of “USA-CCCP” is in the introduction to Letter J more >>. Note that in Letter K, Kozlov inverses the order of the two words in the title. In the previous letter, he called the painting “CCCP-USA”, but apparently, the word order is not important, and “USA-CCCP” will be used from now on. Since Letter K also mentions Catherine Mannick’s forthcoming visit in October 1986, of which Kozlov knew from a common friend, it must have been written some time in September. It is therefore very unlikely that Mannick received it before she left to Moscow at the beginning of October.

The prospect of soon meeting with his friend reconciles the artist with the fact that he hadn’t heard from her in six months (Почти пол-года не получил от тебя писем). He fears that her letters might have got lost on the way to him, and likewise, that his previous letters might not have arrived. [1]

Kozlov wrote the text on two coloured photographs he is referring to in a postscript, written partly in English:

    На фото художники и манекенщицы. It’s a little joke for you from my heart. /
    In the photo, there are artists and models. It’s a little joke for you from my heart. (Page 2)

The vintage prints, entirely coloured with translucent as well as covering paint and framed with brownish paper glue, belong to Kozlov’s “Показ мод / Fashion Show” series, of which several negative films have been kept in his archive. “Fashion Show” was a stylish, punk-inclined performance more >> the New Artists and their friends staged at Timur Novikov’s “ASSA” squat and gallery in 1984 see Letter N Part 2 >>.


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Painted vintage print from the "Fashion Show" series
From left to right:
Yury “Tsirkul” Krasev, Natalya "Dlinnaya" Nazarova, Timur Novikov, and Gasya Ordinova more >>.

Letter K to Catherine Mannick, reverse of page 2

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

E-E archival number: E-E-pho-AZ53-opc-left


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Painted vintage print from the "Fashion Show" series
From left to right:
Gasya Ordinova, Katya Selitskaya, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, and Oleg Kotelnikov more >>.

Letter K to Catherine Mannick, reverse of page 1

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

E-E archival number: E-E-pho-AZ53-opc-right


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Vintage contact print of film negative strip AZ5 from the “Fashion Show” series. The picture chosen for the two painted vintage prints above is in the centre.

The reverse of page one presents the right half of negative E-E-pho-AZ53, with Gasya Ordinova, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Katya Selitskaya, and Oleg Kotelnikov. Accordingly, the reverse of page two is a print of the left half of the same negative with Yury “Tsirkul” Krasev, Natalya "Dlinnaya" Nazarova, Timur Novikov, and, again, Gasya Ordinova. On the left of this picture is a fragment of Kirill Khazanovich’s painting “Play on Letters” from 1984. It was exhibited at ASSA Gallery the same year, during the New Artists’ first group exhibition more >>.




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov. Timur Novikov and Oleg Kotelnikov. E-E-pho- AZ33 from the Fashion Show series. Rolling Stone, Russia, May 2010
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov.

Timur Novikov and Oleg Kotelnikov.
E-E-pho- AZ33 from the Fashion Show series.
Rolling Stone, Russia, May 2010



In the history of the New Artists,[2] the “Fashion Show” series is quite well known, as a number of pictures have been printed in magazines and art catalogues, among them Rolling Stone Russia (2010). Kozlov himself included several “Fashion Show” vintage prints in his collage-triptych from 1984 A Slice through Time. Dedicated to All, which has been in the collection of The State Russian Museum since 1991.[3]

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Fragment of E-E-184006, collage-triptych A Slice through Time. Dedicated to All see introduction >> Natalia Nazarova, Gasya Ordinova
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Fragment of the collage-triptych A Slice through Time. Dedicated to All
with Natalia Nazarova, Gasya Ordinova during the Fashion Show performance at Timur Novikov’s ASSA Gallery see Letter N, Part 2 >>

Collection The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg more >>

E-E archival number E-E-184006,



It is possible that Kozlov coloured the “Fashion Show” prints for Letter K around the same time, in 1984, but did not select them for the triptych – displaying vivid shades of red, green, and yellow, they are more colourful than the other pictures and would have dominated the composition. Since they are not dated, this is an assumption. It is based on the fact that they differ from the artist’s graffiti-comic art style described in the introductions to Letters I, H, and J, which had fully unfolded by 1986.

The painting "USA-CCCP" highlights this graffiti-comic approach, but Kozlov wasn’t fully satisfied with the result.

    Then from time to time I looked at it and checked it, as I always do – this verification process may vary from a week to a year, and that's what came out of it – it seemed to me that its size wasn’t large enough and I couldn’t realise everything. In the future, if I ever have a large space, I want to make a panel from canvases of the same size, which will include this canvas. I think there should be 10 such canvases, i.e. 3 m x 11 m, it’s a great amount of work, but I am sure I can do it. Do you believe me? (Page 2)

The problem of enjoying less than ideal conditions for his art is a recurrent theme in Kozlov’s letters. It was a twofold problem: lack of financial means and of being obliged by law to provide evidence of an official employment status. In other words, to work for some state company. Kozlov calls it a “government job”.

    I think I'm going to quit my government job again. What can I do, I have to choose. After all, painting is my real life and nobody knows how much time I still have ahead of me to realise my plans. (Page 2)

Kozlov’s workbook, a compulsory document for all Soviet citizens, shows that he actually did quit his job at the Petrodvorets Canteen Combine (see Letter I more >>).

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov.
Double page from workbook with entries 17, 18, and 19. Note that all entries were made by the respective employer.

18
Трест столовых Петродворца района / Petrodvorets Canteen Combine
1983 09 19 Прнят маляром 3-разряда в Стройгруппу / Hired as construction’s group third class painter
Signed and dated 19 September 1983

19
1986 08 01 Уволен по собственому желанию / Dismissal at own will.
Signed and dated 16 January 1983




The entry is intriguing: Signed by his employer on 16 January 1987, the termination of his contract is backdated to 1 August 1986, although Letter K shows that in September, he still only thinks about giving notice. Kozlov doesn’t remember what caused the delay between the dates, but it looks like he gradually stopped going to work, relinquishing his payment, before he eventually left the place altogether, and that only when he needed to pick up his workbook decided to settle the case. After that, he worked for a month in May 1987, and that was it until early 1990, when he needed a (fictitious) job to apply for a passport to travel abroad. In the course of perestroika, pressure on “unofficial” artists subsided, and significant gaps in the workbook were no longer a problem. Alas, quitting his job solved only part of his troubles – the availability of time, but not the availability of money that would allow him to realise his works on a large scale.

1986, however, marked only the beginning of the new times, and restrictions on art were still quite substantial. Thus, in the spring of 1986, an exhibition of the independent artists’ organisation TEII at the Leningrad Palace of the Youth “was not officially opened, because the Leningrad City Exhibition Committee demanded a number of works to be removed, which would have led to the exclusion of seventeen artists”.[4]

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  CCCP-USA. Oil on canvas, approx. 160 x 110 cm, 1986.  Photo: Catherine Mannick, October 1986.  Photo: Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University  E-E archival number: E-E-186026

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

CCCP-USA. Oil on canvas, approx. 160 x 110 cm, 1986.

Photo: Catherine Mannick, October 1986.

Photo: Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

E-E archival number: E-E-186026



In Kozlov’s opinion, “USA-CCCP”, the painting documented by Catherine Mannick during her visit in October 1986, would most likely cause him serious troubles with the authorities. This is why the painting no longer exists: not long after completion, Kozlov burnt it on the shore of the Gulf of Finland – a regretful act of destruction. But the artist thought that he had gone one step too far with his depiction of the USA-CCCP relationship as two figures, one attached to the back of the other one it is about to rescue, like a fire-fighter hoisting up a casualty. Although, as stated before,[5] it isn’t obvious which of the figures visualises the USSR and which one the USA, it isn’t difficult to draw conclusions about who represents the “positive hero” in this constellation. Looking back, Kozlov says: “It suffices to remember the tons of food and other supplies sent to the USSR at the beginning of the 1920s[6] or the substantial military help during World War II,[7] but there are other examples, too. Of course, American help is not something made popular in Russia, neither during the Cold War nor today, but KGB-people are not stupid, and they know at least some historical facts.”[8]  

Apart from the political issue, there was another problem. After all, art censors could see in the painting whatever they were inclined to see, especially when inclined to see the USA-CCCP relationship depicted as a sexual relationship occurring between two men. In the Soviet Union, homosexual activities were still forbidden by law in 1986, and discerning them in the context of the interrelation between the two superpowers only made things worse.[9] One of Kozlov’s works had been refused at an exhibition the previous year because of an English text (see Letter I more >>), but “USA-CCCP” was a much more critical case. It was unthinkable to show this painting publicly – Kozlov feared that it might lead to his arrest.

Kozlov’s concern was not unfounded. He knew that the KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate, in charge of dissidents and “unreliable” persons, had him on their radar – not only because he was receiving mail from America or attending places frequented by young nonconformist people and surveilled by the KGB, such as Café Saigon more >> or the Leningrad Rock Club more >>. In fact, Kozlov’s contact to foreigners reached back to the mid-seventies, and at that time, the local KGB office had summoned him to make him act as an informer. The conversation took a rather violent turn from the KGB’s side when one of the officers was grabbed him by his hair and dragged him around the room. This type of abuse, of humiliation, surely wasn’t the worst that could happen in such a situation, but it was meant to show who was in control of it, who was the boss and who was the victim. Kozlov still refused.

Refusing such requests was a risky business and not common among nonconformist artists or writers. Boris Grebenshikov, the leader of the band Aquarium, is one of the few nonconformist cultural protagonists who today openly talks about the situation, explaining how he found a strategy to deal with it – by telling his friends of these “meetings” immediately afterwards, thus destroying the cobweb of secrecy the KGB tried to spin.[10]

But for Evgenij Kozlov, not collaborating with the KGB was a question surviving – as an artist in the first place, but also in a literal sense. He had passed through a situation of having to protect his very self before, when he hadn’t passed the entrance examination to Leningrad’s Higher School of Art and Design.[11]

At this point, his mother pressed him to take up a job, suggesting that he could indulge in what she considered to be his hobby after work or on the weekends. Kozlov remembers: “My father showed more empathy for my talent, and when I was a child, he often took me to the museums of Leningrad, but in a way, I can understand my mother, too. She had grown up in the countryside, and there, if you didn’t work, you just didn’t eat. She had her first job at the age of sixteen and continued going to work for over fifty years. To her, being able to earn one’s living was mandatory not only because it was required by law. Plus in the Soviet Union, working in ordinary jobs was considered the norm for ordinary people, and I was definitely not expected to be outside the norm. So I went to work at the local watch factory[12] where, during an eight hours shift, I would count tiny screws for watches with the help of a pair of tweezers. The idea was that say, Mozart or da Vinci would have a regular job absorbing all their energy and completely demoralising them, just to miraculously write or draw their masterpieces in their spare time. It was only when I cut my veins that my parents understood the seriousness of my engagement to art.” It convinced them that in order to protect his inner world, their son was ready to go to the limits, and instead of criticising him, they now tried to support him as well as they could.

The meeting with the KGB once more put him in a hopeless situation, but when he confronted the KGB officers with the consequences, they weren’t ready to find out whether he would go all the way this time and let go of him. After all, he wasn’t likely to become a reliable source of information for them. Since that time, Kozlov was convinced that the KGB had a file on him, and that if the occasion arose, would punish him simply as an act of revenge.

Considering the circumstances, destroying “USA-CCCP” seemed to be the best way to avoid any troubles. Yet due to multiple layers of paint, the canvas didn’t burn very well, and he discarded the painting behind some rocks close to Peterhof’s Lower Park, where it might be found one day.

Hannelore Fobo, 27 July 2023


[1] Mannick’s last letter (Letter 34) had arrived at the end of April, and Letter 35, dated 6 September 1986, which arrived at Peterhof on October 1st , actually crossed with Letter K. In Letter 35, Mannick confirms the reception of a letter the previous day, by all accounts Letter I, presumably from spring 1986. This might explain why she hadn’t written earlier. 

[2] Regarding the problem of who actually belonged to the New Artists see: Hannelore Fobo. Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists (2018).

[3] Some of these prints show the presentation of his Nachalnik Kamchatki record sleeve for the band KINO.

[4]    Hannelore Fobo. The Spring Exhibition of Works of Visual Arts. The Eighth Exhibition of the Society for Experimental Visual Art (TEII), The Palace of The Youth, Leningrad • 15. 5.-19. 5. 1986 (2019) more >>

[5] In the introduction to Letter J more >>

[6] This is a reference to the American Relief Administration (ARA) and the Russian Famine Relief Act from 1921.

[7]  Under the American Lend-Lease Act from 1941.

[8]  While it is obvious that for Soviet citizens, accrediting Americans for their critical support of the Soviet Union was not a good idea during the Cold War, it is less clear how much “ordinary” KGB-people actually knew of it. According to novelist and lecturer Arkady Belinkov, who defected from the Soviet Union in 1968, even Stalin’s acknowledgements were censored in books:

    If I am not mistaken, it was in one of his first speeches at the end of 1941 that Stalin said, “Without our allies we shall not be able to vanquish the enemy.” This remark was published in the press but never appeared in any subsequent collections of his dicta, not even in the monumental work which minutely records all his orders and decrees. Shortly after the war he made a similar statement at a banquet: “Without the allies we would not have won the war.” This, too, has never appeared in print.

Dewhirst, Martin. The Soviet censorship. Issued in cooperation with Radio Liberty Committee, New York, N. Y., and the Institute for the Study of the USSR, Munich. The Scarecrow Press, 1973, p. 18

[9] If Kozlov had intended to depict a same-sex scene, he would have been more explicit, as in two satirical works on paper from the same year called “The Flight of the Americans in Cosmos”. Besides, several of his close artist friends were gay, and their sexual orientation, as the Russians say,  provoked no further comments in the Leningrad art-scene.

[10] See Boris Grebenshikov’s interview with Mikhail Margolis for Izvestia, 4 February 2018. Extermal link >>

[11] Ленинградское высшее художественно-промышленное училище имени В. И. Мухиной / Leningrad Vera Mukhina Higher School of Art and Design, since 1994 Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design.

[12] Петродворцовый часовой завод «Ракета» / Petrodvorets Watch Factory “Raketa”, one of the oldest factories in Russia.
Extermal link >>





 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Painted vintage print from the "Fashion Show" series From left to right: Gasya Ordinova, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Katya Selitskaya, and Oleg Kotelnikov more >>.  Letter K to Catherine Mannick, reverse of page 1  Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University  E-E archival number: E-E-pho-AZ53-opc-right

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Painted vintage print from the "Fashion Show" series
From left to right:
Gasya Ordinova, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Katya Selitskaya, and Oleg Kotelnikov more >>.

Letter K to Catherine Mannick, reverse of page 1

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

E-E archival number: E-E-pho-AZ53-opc-right


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Letter K to Catherine Mannick, page 1, 1986  Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Letter K to Catherine Mannick, page 1, 1986

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

Page 1

Дорогая моя, Катя!

Почти пол-года не получил от тебя писем, жду и думаю о тебе, и беспокоюсь. Возможно, это почта? Я очень соскучился по тебе! Надеялся, что хоть на день рождения получу поздравления, я так ждал твоих слов и сейчас тоже!!! Послал тебе 2 большие письма и тоже беспокоюсь, дошли ли они до тебя, т.к. в них были очень важные слова для нас.

Получил от Марины письмо с чудесными фотографиями, на одной из которых ты тоже есть, я был так рад!!! У нее все идет хорош с Давидом — это здорово, но для меня было самым приятным ее сообщение о том, что ты собираешь в Союз в октябре. Ура!!! Наконец-то мы увидимся снова!!! Все-таки самые длинные письма мне не заметят самого короткого прямого общения с тобой. Оно всегда так празднично и волнующе для меня. Не меняй свои планы, пожалуйста, приезжай, хочу тебя видеть и о многом говорить, буду счастлив видеть тебя. 




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Painted vintage print from the "Fashion Show" series From left to right: Yury “Tsirkul” Krasev, Natalya "Dlinnaya" Nazarova, Timur Novikov, and Gasya Ordinova more >>.  Letter K to Catherine Mannick, reverse of page 2  Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University  E-E archival number: E-E-pho-AZ53-opc-left

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Painted vintage print from the "Fashion Show" series
From left to right:
Yury “Tsirkul” Krasev, Natalya "Dlinnaya" Nazarova, Timur Novikov, and Gasya Ordinova more >>.

Letter K to Catherine Mannick, reverse of page 2

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University

E-E archival number: E-E-pho-AZ53-opc-left

 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Letter K to Catherine Mannick, page 2, 1986  Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Letter K to Catherine Mannick, page 2, 1986

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection, Harvard University.

Page 2

Твои фотографии висят у меня на стене и каждый новый день я начинаю с того, что открываю глаза и встречаюсь с тобой, а лучшие из твоих фото всегда ношу с собой. Может быть, этим я храню твое спокойствие?

В последнем письме писал тебе о картине „USA-СССР“, я совершил ее. Потом время от времени смотрел и проверил, так делаю всегда — этот процесс проверки длится по разному, от недели до года, и вот что получилось — мне оказалось мало этого размера и того, что смог сделать в нем. В перспективе, если когда-нибудь буду иметь большое помещение, то хочу составить панно их [из] холстов такого-же размера, куда войдет и это полотно. Думая, что таких холстов должно быть 10, т. е. 3 м. х 11 м, объем работы большой, но уверен он мне по силам. Веришь?

Кажется, я снова уйду с государственной работы. Что делать, приходится выбирать, в конце концов живопись — это моя настоящая жизнь и, неизвестно, сколько меня впереди еще времени для осуществления моих планов.

Целую тебя, жду, твой Евгений.

P.S. На фото художники и манекенщицы. It‘s a little joke for you from my heart.




USA-CCCP. Points of Contact.
Part 1: Introduction
Synopsis • Preliminary Remarks
1. From Leningrad to Boston and Back
2. Let’s Talk About Art. New Wave, New Artists, and B(L)ack art
3. Perestroika Emissaries
4. The End of Censorship
5. “It Seems I Need a Manager.” The Impact of Getting Popular
6. Leningrad Artists and Musicians in E-E Kozlov's Pictures
— The River of Forgetfulness, 1988 —
Part 2: Letters
Letter A (1979) – Halloween
Letter B (1980) – To Be at Peace with Yourself
Letter C (1980) – Harlequin
Letter D (1982) – The Sea and the Countryside
Letter E (1983) – Saigon
Letter F (1983) – Moscow
Letter G (1984) – New Wave
Letter H (1985) – New Composers
Letter I (1986) – Happy New Year at the Leningrad Rock Club
Letter J (1986) – CCCP-USA
Letter K (1986) – The Price of Art
Letter L (1986) – B (L)ack art • PoPs from the USSSR
Letter M (1986) – A Taste for Colours
Letter N (1987) – Part 1: Changes and Challenges
Letter N (1987) – Part 2: ASSA
Letter O (1988) – Joanna Stingray's Wedding
Letter P (1989) – Perestroika Hot News
Letter Q (1989) – Russkoee Polee • The Russian Field
Letter R (1990) – New Classicals
Epilogue: USA-CCCP. Points of Contact (Forthcoming)

see also
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Catherine Mannick, and Hannelore Fobo papers, 1979-2022 (inclusive)
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection Harvard University >>

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Published 8 August 2023
Last updated 7 June 2024