(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
Leningrad 80s >>
Da Da Majakowski
Dionysus Gallery, Rotterdam, 25 March – 8 April 1988
|Page 1: Introduction|
|Page 2: Dionysus, Nieuwe Weelde, and Circ|
|Page 3: Invitation card and press release|
|Page 4: The reconstruction of Da Da Majakowski|
|Page 5: Floor plan and presentation of artworks|
|Page 6: Press reviews – summary|
|Page 7: Press reviews – documents|
|Young Unknowns Gallery, London, February 1988|
In 1988, the New Artists entered a rather intense period of exhibitions, both at home and abroad. Some of these exhibitions were touring from one place to the next, although with different titles. Thus, Da Da Majakowski (Dionysus Gallery, Rotterdam, 25 March – 8 April 1988; also Da Da Mayakovsky), was the follow-up exhibition to 7 Independent Artists – Live from Leningrad (Young Unknowns Gallery, London, 2-27 February, 1988) more >>. The connection between these exhibitions becomes evident when we look at the invitation cards – both the London and the Rotterdam exhibitions reproduced the same picture of a textile work by Andrei Krisanov, (first) exhibited in Leningrad in 1986 at a 8th General Exhibition of the TEII (The Society for Experimental Fine Arts, Leningrad).
And this connection becomes even more evident when we compare the line-up of artists from both exhibitions.
With regard to London, however, we are not relying on the line-up from the press release containing seven names: Inal Savchenkov, Sergei Bugaev, Oleg Kotelnikov, Timur Novikov, Vadim Ovchinnikov, Vladislav Gutsevich, and Yevgeny Koslow (Evgenij Kozlov).
Contrary to the exhibition title 7 Independent Artists – Live from Leningrad, the typescript catalogue of the London exhibition displays not seven, but twelve names (with Vladislav Gutsevich no longer included): Sergei Bugaev, Timur Novikov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Ivan Sotnikov, Vadim Ovchinnikov, Andrey Krisanov, Andrey Klobystin, Georgy Gurianov, Inal Savchenkov, Igor Potapov (Novikov’s alter ego), Irena Kuksenaite, and Evgenij Kozlov. It is only logical that the catalogue carries a simplified title "Independent Artists – Live from Leningrad."
I first came across the Rotterdam line-up through Ksenia Novikova’s Chronicle of New Artists' activities published in the New Artists catalogue, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, where it is on page 277. This Rotterdam line-up is congruent with the line-up of artists from the London catalogue, with the exception of Kozlov. That reduces the number of “Rotterdam” artists to eleven – or to ten, if we remove the fictitious name of Igor Potapov. The Chronicle displays their names in the following order:
Yet Kozlov himself had included Da Da Majakovski into his list of exhibitions, a list he compiled in 1991, mostly relying on information he received from Timur Novikov.
Thus, I found Kozlov’s name in the press release and catalogue of the Young Unknowns Gallery, London, but not in the Chronicle entry for the Dionysus Gallery, Rotterdam. In 2018, I received pictures of the London exhibition documenting eighteen works by various artists, none of which was by Kozlov. Consequently, I was inclined to think that Kozlov’s works did not travel to London. And if they weren’t in London, they couldn’t have travelled to Rotterdam. But this was no more than an assumption: perhaps the London photographer hadn't documented all of the works displayed – or perhaps part of the works had been kept in a storage for lack of gallery space and Kozlov’s work or works were displayed later, in Rotterdam.
The problem regarding Kozlov’s works – whether or not they participated in one or both exhibitions – was one of the reasons I decided to try to find out more about Da Da Majakowski.
The eighteen “London” pictures have, however, created an additional problem: that of identifying the authors of the works they document. None of the artists who ran the Young Unknowns Gallery had selected the exhibits – the works were “delivered” to them along with all the other information for the catalogue, including the line-up of artists. Since many works were unsigned and the artists themselves did not come to London, neither Peter Sylveire nor his colleagues were able to verify whether the catalogue's line-up of artists actually corresponded to the authors of those works they were showing.
Of those eighteen works, I identified ten: Timur Novikov (3), Inal Savchenkov (1), Georgy Guryanov (2), Oleg Kotelnikov (1), Andrey Khlobystin (3). Regarding the other ones, I have more or less plausible guesses, but none resembles a work by Ivan Sotnikov, Andrei Krisanov, or (as far as I can tell) Irena Kuksenaite. Curiously enough, Andrei Krisanov’s work from the invitation card is not in the pictures. By all means, the factual line-up of artists must have been smaller than the one published. My hope was the Rotterdam exhibition might shed some light on these questions and help me to identify more works.
An internet research allowed me to contact Rotterdam based artist Enno de Kroon, one of the organisers of Dionysus Gallery which existed as an artist-run gallery space between 1986 and 1991.
In October 2020, I had the opportunity to carry out some research in Enno de Kroon’s gallery archive, and Enno also introduced me to René van Meer who had been on editorial board of “Nieuwe Weelde”, a Rotterdam cultural magazine that, as I learned, had initiated Da Da Majakowski.
The following description is based on Enno de Kroon’s and René van Meer’s personal recollections and on archival material they both shared with me – pictures with exhibition views, the invitation card and poster, the press release, press reviews, and two editions of “Nieuwe Weelde” from 1988 – which allowed me to reconstruct the exhibition and carry out further research. I would like to thank Enno and René for finding the time to recall what happened more than thirty years ago. My special thanks go to Enno de Kroon for his generous hospitality.
Although I haven’t been able to find traces of Kozlov’s works, the material I was shown in Rotterdam was helpful in many other ways. It allowed me to reconstruct Da Da Majakowski and determine more precisely the connection between the London and Rotterdam exhibitions – a connection that, as I will show on the next pages, went much beyond those almost identical invitation cards: the exhibitions themselves were almost identical, although with a total of twenty-one works, Rotterdam was slightly larger than London.
An undocumented London “object” I had heard of before is also in one of the Rotterdam pictures, making it no. twenty-two: Peter Sylveire had told me about Timur Novikov’s painted suit he had been wearing at the opening of 7 Independent Artists – Live from Leningrad. At the opening of Da Da Majakowski, Novikov’s suit could be seen on Ko Winters of “Circ” (see next chapter). The suit consists of a long jacket and wide-legged trousers – somewhat oversized for Winters, which gave his outfit a trendy loose-fitting appeal.
An interesting conclusion I have come to regards the presentation of the exhibition to the public: the Dionysus team worked with reports and print material other people provided them, which included some mystified facts around the smuggling of the works to Rotterdam and an abridged version of a Russian text containing a number mistranslations. The press reviews show that such accidental or even misleading pieces of information about artists and their works played their part in determining what was perceived as relevant information for visitors. The smuggling fired the imagination of critics, as it met with certain western preconceptions and expectations regarding art coming from the Soviet Union (“dissident” art). In this way, these contingencies contributed to the success of the show – although not necessarily to a realistic picture of the situation of Leningrad artists or their art.
Text and research: Hannelore Fobo, November 2020