E-Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
E-E Evgenij Kozlov: Exhibitions
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
|25 drawings, marker, paper, 29 x 40.5 cm, 1990
Wooden frames (painted 1991, Kampnagel, Hamburg).
Hello Mr. Lenin!
It seems appropriate to address the great leader in such a familiar way for we are about to encounter him on intimate terms.Evgenij Kozlov’s album “Leninskaya Erotika” continues the flourishing tradition of “Leniniana” which shows us that despite the passage of time, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s personality has lost neither its pull nor its power. A compilation of “Leniniana” works appeared in 1990 in a book published specifically for teachers, entitled “Leniniana in Soviet Fine Arts” (Prosveščenie Publishing, Moscow, ISBN 5-09-001500-7) and the foreword contained this significant observation: ...
read the text from 1991 by Hannelore Fobo >>
Evgenij Kozlov: Leninskaya Erotika
It seems appropriate to address the great leader in such a familiar way for we are about to encounter him on intimate terms.
Evgenij Kozlov’s album “Leninskaya Erotika” continues the flourishing tradition of “Leniniana” which shows us that despite the passage of time, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s personality has lost neither its pull nor its power. A compilation of “Leniniana” works appeared in 1990 in a book published specifically for teachers, entitled “Leniniana in Soviet Fine Arts” (Prosveščenie Publishing, Moscow, ISBN 5-09-001500-7) and the foreword contained this significant observation:
It would be hard to imagine a more rewarding challenge for an artist than to present Lenin in his entirety; imbued and alive with the components of a massive, steadfast will, formidable energy, power of comprehension and intellectual concentration.”
Heroism reached new heights with Lenin and anyone dedicated to immortalising this brilliant figure in a true work of art “must familiarise himself with the greatness and the wisdom of Lenin’s thought, the beauty and fascination of his personality and the magnificence of his deeds. To create the figure of Lenin anew in artistic terms means representing the collective experience of the people and in doing so, echoing the best of their revolutionary characteristics.” (Leniniana, p. 3)
Malicious gossip has recently attempted to slander both Lenin’s name and deeds. Even Soviet television has been coaxed to join the witch-hunt. The TV show “The Fifth Wheel”, which has a reputation for spreading irresponsible rumours, has accused Lenin of being drug dependent and in an attempt to substantiate this there have even been calls for his body to be exhumed; quite frankly nothing could be more irreverent.
In these difficult times, when spiritual and moral decay threaten the very fibre of our country and socialist union, it is particularly fortuitous that a young and exceptionally talented artist from the city which bears Lenin’s name has aligned himself with the tradition of Leniniana. This artist is, of course, Evgenij Kozlov, who shows the world an incomparable mastery with his execution of this subject: Lenin. We owe him immense gratitude, as do the generations to come, for exposing a new and hitherto concealed side of the titan.
Let’s cut to the chase: a certain prudery in socialist society has prevented Lenin from being seen not only as a model leader and father, but also as a man of flesh and blood.
This limited stance has now been overcome thanks in no small part to the artistic intuition of Evgenij Kozlov, who shows innate ability and comprehension of the bond between man and woman, as expressed in the desire and appreciation of beauty.
Kozlov was just three years old when, under the benevolent eye of his father, he began to copy the great masters hanging in the Hermitage. Even at this age he was drawn by the sexual attraction exercised by the female form. The works he copied are an indication of this; namely:
Herman Weyer’s “Orpheus and Eurydice”, Hendrick Goudt’s “The Three Graces”, Jacob Jordaens “The Abduction of Europe”. This inclination would continue as a central theme to his later work.
Today Evgenij Kozlov's work astonishes us and indeed, he is an exceptional figure among the artists of Leningrad.
On Leningrad television he is described as “the most fashion-conscious of Leningrad’s artists”; the Second German Television channel sent a team to do a feature on him while gallery-owners, journalists, photographers and curators hurry to get a glimpse of this genuine Russian artist who has, with aristocratic self-awareness, turned his eccentric self-presentation into a facet of his aesthetic persona.
It is therefore hardly surprising that he looks towards and is ultimately spellbound by another exceptional figure in Russian history - the man who did everything to liberate the artist from the chains of a bourgeois art devoid and deprived of meaning: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
Kozlov approached this complex personality, with its innumerable facets, by systematically collecting Lenin badges, busts and literature, and installing a “Lenin Room” in his apartment, using his most intimate room for this purpose: the bathroom. He often feels it necessary to rework the objects he has collected in order to conform and develop them along the lines of his personal ideal of Lenin. The complete “Lenin Room” will be on show in October 1991 in Nantes, France as part of a prolific Leningrad Festival.
Kozlov's creative interaction with Lenin leads to the revelation that Lenin’s hypnotic effect emanates from his eyes and this proves to be the catalyst for Kozlov’s portrait of Lenin (2 x 3 metres) “The Great Le-yeah-nin” (also known as “Le-yeah-nin with Red Eyes”) where the result shows the revolutionary’s eyes gleaming with such fiery and vital passion that one finds it hard to meet the great man's gaze.
And now, these red eyes remain a constant in Kozlov’s portrayal of Lenin. His genius of artistic intuition has realised that it is truly capable of capturing the very being of Lenin and therefore, it is only logical that he attends to the tender side of Lenin, whom he affectionately calls “Vova”. Although Kozlov has not stated why he chose the summer of 1990 as the time for this, one may assume he was inspired by the sensational findings at the Lenin Library in Moscow from where a report on the “The Fifth Wheel” spoke of the unearthing of several hundred packets of aged, yellowing letters, all tied up with faded pink ribbon. They are addressed to “Vova, Smolny” and “Vova, Kremlin”. This confirmed the persistent rumours that Lenin had a legion of female admirers who had written endearingly to him and provides another nod to the effects of glasnost and perestroika!
Incidentally, a not inconsiderable proportion of these ’sweet nothings' were written by women from the United States of America - and not only by communists! On reflection this is not so astonishing when we remember that despite all ideological and political conflicts between the USA and the USSR they have always shared strong human and cultural bonds. We need only think of the deep grief of the Soviet citizens at the death of that true artist of the people, driven to his death by imperialist exploitation: Elvis Presley!
Seen in this light it may appear prophetic that the first time “The Great Le-yeah-nin” was exhibited, in May 1990, it was in a building which used to be one of St. Petersburg’s “houses of pleasure” (now a culture club) and where, it should be noted, the plush, red upholstery set off Lenin’s eyes perfectly!
Let's return to the 25 drawings of the album.
What we have here are various aspects of an ‘erotic' Lenin. Firstly, there is Lenin as the object of adoration for beautiful women; object in the truest sense of the word. His countenance is omnipresent: in front of ancient aqueducts and stretched limousines, in the desert or the city, in thrifty rooms or luxurious salons. One could claim that Lenin replaced the traditional icon long ago. But this adoration reveals fundamentally different aspects: it is self-aware in “Mirror of the Soul Who Am I?”, self-sacrificing in “The Fairy’s Kiss”, girlishly in love in “I Hug You. And Where Are You?”, passionate in “Both Vladik And Me”.
Is it only Lenin’s aristocratic features - that noble brow and sensual mouth - which make women’s hearts beat faster? Well - in drawing No. 16 something else is implied.
The gaze of the beauty is fixed steadfastly on a half-imaginary yet still powerful column, which appears almost to be made up of flesh, the swollen tip of which is surrounded by a radiant garland. The title of the drawing insinuates more: “Vova or What? ”
The highly realistic Lenin appears in a second group of drawings and they could be considered as one under the classification: “The Frivolous Lenin”. Lenin’s cunning eyes with their unique twinkle have been made famous from countless children’s stories, such as “How Lenin Tricked The Gendarmes” but Lenin’s propensity for treating both himself and the adoration he is afforded with restrained irony is revealed for the first time in Kozlov's “Energy Busts”.
This drawing shows a head shot of Lenin beside his own stone bust. Again the fiery red eyes are there but here they seem to be observing their own, iconic subject with suspicion, curiosity and humour and yet, as with the bust itself, the lips are formed in a sensual, ironic smile. In this group of drawings, Lenin openly reveals his well-rounded female breasts. Is it merely wishful thinking? We know that Lenin's capability towered that of any normal man and therefore, could it be added that other men were or are also aroused by his magnetism?
Lenin is not shy when he shares with us his occasionally childlike, playful fantasies (“Little Red Riding Hood”) or reveals his momentary indecision in the frenzy of desire (“Do I Want To? Or Not?”). Lenin acknowledges his human weakness and in doing so, becomes even greater in our eyes.
We could assume from this group of drawings that Kozlov produced them as a result of his precise knowledge of Lenin’s personality, but there are four drawings which seem to be a posthumous present from the great artist to the great leader; an indication of empathy with the fate of this majestic figure who, while loved and admired by the entire nation, was forced, as is every genius who inhabits the heights, to remain alone. Lenin was ahead of his time and we should seriously consider the following question: is there an undiscovered, tragic side to him?
Was his struggle to liberate the masses (and let’s not forget the artist) perhaps fuelled by a longing which, as opposed to his drive to attain justice for an oppressed proletariat, never found fulfilment? A longing for completeness - or even fusion?
In these four drawings, “Tenderness of Love”, “Tenderness of Feelings”, “Tulips” and “Star Love”, the observer is transported into a tender mood by virtue of their very titles, Lenin has the black eyes of one in mourning. Kozlov may place a compliant female companion at his side but the melancholy gaze remains. It is profoundly moving to look at the last drawing in the album - “Star Love”. The gaze of those gold-rimmed eyes is lowered and the red star floats above Lenin’s head like a halo. Could it be that Lenin’s only release was to be found within the greater cosmos? And could it be, if we stop to consider today's myriad of mysterious and unexplained cosmic occurrences, that he is closer to us than we think?
What sounds like implausible speculation may soon be viewed in a different light if the fast moving developments within scientific research are anything to go by and if so, it will only serve to approve that which we already know: many great artists have anticipated scientific discoveries through the divine force of intuition.
Lenin is a significant presence in the life of Evgenij Kozlov. “Mama Papa. 13” is a drawing of Lenin in which the artist has assembled the names of people important to him. The number 13, which in his own words connects him closely with Lenin, remains an enigma for us. We hope he will one day enlighten us.
Hannelore Fobo, 1991
1. Sincov, Yu.Ya: Nezabyvaemye vstreči s Leninym. Chronika sobytij (1917 – 1924) (Unforgettable Encounters with Lenin. Chronicle of Events.) Moscow, 1985.
2. Zo Zoščenko. M.: Rasskazy o Lenine. Izdatel’stvo “detskaya literatura”. (Stories about Lenin. “Children’s Literature Press”.) Leningrad 1980
3. Lenin, V. I.: Polnoe sobranie sočineniya (Collected Works). Vol 1-55, Moscow 1967-75
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