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


      (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>

The New Artists.

Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos

Text: Hannelore Fobo, 2020

Chapter 6. From Mayakovsky to Larionov and folk art: something of everything

previous page: Chapter 5. The inclusion or exclusion of stylistic influences
next page: Chapter 7. Beyond the trend: Kozlov’s portrait of Timur Novikov (1988)

Table of contents: see bottom of page >>




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Танец с поцелуем / Поцелуй во ржу A Dance with a Kiss / A Kiss in the Rye Ink, gouache, and water colour on cardboard, 54.4 x 44.2 cm, 1981

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Танец с поцелуем / Поцелуй во ржу
A Dance with a Kiss / A Kiss in the Rye
Ink, gouache, and water colour on cardboard, 54.4 x 44.2 cm, 1981
More works from 1981 >>



Chapter 6. From Mayakovsky to Larionov and folk art: something of everything

As the example from the previous chapters show, meaningful statements about native roots require some work, even if we restrict these native roots to the Russian avant-garde, as we do in this article. There is certainly no way around analysing the works of a New artist in detail if we want to understand how this very artist integrated or absorbed specific features of an avant-garde past in order to achieve something new – be it with respect to style, technique, or subject matter.

The question doesn't get simpler when looking at the group’s dynamic evolution of members during a relatively short, but significant period in Soviet / Russian history, the years between 1982 and 1989. In 1986, when Novikov wrote his article about the New Artists, the number of group members had amounted to close to twenty, if we count as members those artists who contributed to public events, performances and exhibitions in a more or less regular way – that is, more than once and not accidentally.[1]

The situation is further complicated by the fact that many artists did not date their works (if they signed them at all), so that these works appear in catalogues as “1980s” or “mid-1980s” etc. The opposite situation, artists antedating their works, is also true. To quote an example: Timur Novikov’s “Horizon” for Kozlov’s collection “2x3m” is dated 1988, but Novikov created it in 1995, when I gave him the material for his work.

Numerous unsigned collective New Artists works contribute to the confusion. In this regard, Kozlov’s works from the 1980s present almost ideal conditions for a researcher, as he not only signed and dated his works correctly, but documented them with his camera, often when still working on them.  

What we can say so far is that avant-garde influences can be found to different degrees with different New artists, who, in some instances, absorbed and transformed those styles, like Kozlov did with Malevich’s geometrical figures, but in other instances simply adapted or even copied them, like Bugaev did with Lissitzky’s propaganda poster.

We may also say that of those members, some artists sometimes referred to some avant-garde artists prior to 1986 – in the case of (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov as early as 1980, before the New Artists emerged as group [2] – and that this habit continued after 1986.

Although there are no avant-garde features common to all New Artists, yet we notice a trend for the late 1980s. When we focus our attention on the formal vocabulary of avant-garde art popular among the New Artists, we can say that those simplified, often tiny shapes of objects and figures best known from early Soviet propaganda porcelain and textile patterns were particularly en vogue. To such “old” symbols  – cars, the cruiser Aurora, soldiers, and workers – new ones were added: airplanes, space rockets and cosmonauts. Some artists employed these symbols until the early 1990s.

Ivan Sotnikov. Two untitled paintings from the late 1980s, each in a 61x107 cm format. The angular cars and "flat footed" fir trees are characteristic of Sotnikov's paintings from that period. In 1988, these and other paintings by Ivan Sotnikov were shown in the first comprehensive international New Artists exhibtion "The New from Leningrad", Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden. The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg. Exhibition catalogue Искусство в жизнь (Art into Life) 1918-1925, 2017. The catalogue cover features a wooden tray designed by Nikolai Lapshin and painted by Maria Shulman: Манифестация на площади Урицкого / Demonstration at Uritsky Square, dated no later than 1925. (Description on p. 140)
Ivan Sotnikov. Two untitled paintings from the late 1980s, each in a 61x107 cm format. The angular cars and "flat footed" fir trees are characteristic of Sotnikov's paintings from that period. In 1988, these and other paintings by Ivan Sotnikov were shown in the first comprehensive international New Artists exhibtion "The New from Leningrad", Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden.
Ivan Sotnikov. Two untitled paintings from the late 1980s, each in a 61x107 cm format. The angular cars and "flat footed" fir trees are characteristic of Sotnikov's paintings from that period. In 1988, these and other paintings by Ivan Sotnikov were shown in the first comprehensive international New Artists exhibtion "The New from Leningrad", Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden. more >>


The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg. Exhibition catalogue Искусство в жизнь (Art into Life) 1918-1925, 2017. The catalogue cover features a wooden tray designed by Nikolai Lapshin and painted by Maria Shulman: Манифестация на площади Урицкого / Demonstration at Uritsky Square, dated no later than 1925. (Description on p. 140)
Ivan Sotnikov. One part of a pair of silver cufflinks from the 1980s, displaying the cruiser Aurora and a "footed" car. The size of each piece is approximately 1x2cm. The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin. Ivan Sotnikov. One part of a pair of silver cufflinks from the 1980s, displaying a rocket and a "footed" car. The size of each piece is approximately 1x2cm. The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin.
Ivan Sotnikov. One part of a pair of silver cufflinks from the 1980s, displaying the cruiser Aurora and a "footed" car. The size of each piece is approximately 1x2cm.
The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin.

Ivan Sotnikov. One part of a pair of silver cufflinks from the 1980s, displaying a rocket and a "footed" car. The size of each piece is approximately 1x2cm.
The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin.




Generally speaking – very generally speaking – the New Artists did not look at these motifs as political symbols and therefore did not bother to deconstruct their political message. Rather, they appropriated them as pictograms, which gave those works a strong graphic effect. Contrary to propaganda artists, and unlike Moscow conceptualists, the New Artists used symbols and even script as icons, thereby effectively neutralising any moralising, heroic propaganda “charge” of these symbols.

Аndrey Medvedev Untitled. Acrylic on paper, 34 х 46.5 cm, 1992 Nikolai Suetin Applied arts design, water colour on paper, 19.5 x 28.1 cm, 1930. Exhibition catalogue Искусство в жизнь (Art into Life) 1918-1925, 2017, p. 126
Аndrey Medvedev
Untitled.
Acrylic on paper, 34 х 46.5 cm, 1992


Nikolai Suetin
Applied arts design, water colour on paper, 19.5 x 28.1 cm, 1930. Exhibition catalogue Искусство в жизнь (Art into Life) 1918-1925, 2017, p. 126


Timur Novikov: Маяк / A Lighthouse. Paper on textile, 178 x 200 cm, late 1980s. Photo: Hannelore Fobo, 1998 Timur Novikov: Маяк / A Lighthouse. Detail with Lighthouse. Photo: Hannelore Fobo, 1998
Timur Novikov: Маяк / A Lighthouse.
Paper on textile, 178 x 200 cm, late 1980s.
Photo: Hannelore Fobo, 1998


Timur Novikov: Маяк / A Lighthouse.
Detail with Lighthouse.
Photo: Hannelore Fobo, 1998


Oleg Kotelnikov Untitled. 100 x 150 cm, Mixed media on canvas, ca. 1988. Oleg Kotelnikov Untitled (Печка / Stove). 100 х 100 cm, Mixed media on canvas, 1988
Oleg Kotelnikov
Untitled.
100 x 150 cm, Mixed media on canvas, ca. 1988.


Oleg Kotelnikov
Untitled (Печка / Stove).
100 х 100 cm, Mixed media on canvas, 1988





Andrey Medvedev adapted many of these motifs for his stencil drawings. Ivan Sotnikov used them throughout his graphic works and paintings, where they appear in a more painterly fashion, but also designed a pair of silver cufflinks, a gift to Evgenij Kozlov. Timur Novikov applied their laconic design to his “Horizon” textile works, and the upper half circle of a sun with radiating beams became his logotype. A similar approach of applying small symbols on monochrome surfaces can be seen in Oleg Kotelnikov paintings from the late 1980s and early 1990s, substituting his earlier expressionist style. Sergei Bugaev placed stencilled stencilled “Mayakovskian” figures on various media; several of them are documented for exhibitions in 1988 in Leningrad, London, and Stockholm. [3]

Sergei Bugaev (Afrika) Two works displayed at the exhibition "The New from Leningrad". Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1988 Sergei Bugaev (Afrika) Two works displayed at the exhibition "The New from Leningrad". Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1988
Sergei Bugaev (Afrika)
Two works displayed at the exhibition
"The New from Leningrad". Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1988 more >>
Sergei Bugaev (Afrika)
Two works displayed at the exhibition
"The New from Leningrad". Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1988 more >>




Most avant-garde artists mentioned so far are connected to (figurative) abstractionism or geometric forms – constructivism in the largest sense: Lissitsky, Malevich, Mayakovsky, Lebedev, Popova, Rodchenko, and Stepanova. Yet Mikhail Larionov’s bright and sometimes outright naïve works also played a significant role: in 1980, a large Larionov exhibition took place at the Russian Museum, and Novikov often referred to the impact this exhibition had on him. It allowed him to make the acquaintance of Maria Spendiarova (1913-1993), a student at the Moscow Vkhutemas-Vkhutein in the 1920s and a follower of Larionov, who explained Novikov Larionov‘s theory of “everythingism” and introduced him to some artists from the older generation. In fact, in his lecture from 2002 Novikov talked about Larionov, Malevich, Filonov, Mayakovsky, Burlyuk and other avant-gardists or Futurists as if he had known them personally.[4]

When we take into account that Novikov promoted Larionov’s theory of “everythingism” (“всечества”) as a principle that entered the group’s work [5], this opens a Pandora’s box, as “everythingism” or “everythingness” includes virtually every technique and style. There is, however, an exception to academic art, because it is not considered to be “great art”, as we will see with Le Dantiyu’s definition of everythingism.

To be exact, Novikov mentioned only Larionov in his 1986 text, but in the press release for 7 Independent Artists Live from Leningrad in London, 1988, we read both names: “The group are strongly influenced by Mayakovsky and the avant-garde movement which flowered at the time of the 1917 revolution and included Tatlin, Larionov and Goncharova.”[6] The sentence follows a description of the New Artists‘ working method – which, we understand, serves as a paraphrase of everythingism: “The New Painters work on and utilizes any materials that come to hand; fabric, plastic, felt tips, collage tire hubs, as well as conventional paint, making ‘destructible paintings’ with a limited lifespan” [7]. The term everythingism doesn‘t appear in the press release, but we find it in a related document: in the foreword to Novikov’s catalogue text for the same exhibition. The foreword or introduction, signed by Sergei Bugaev as chairman of the Club of Friends of V.V. Mayakovsky and Timur Novikov as vice chairman and Head of the Fine Arts Section, defines everythingism or vsechestvo as “the use of any method”:

    The Club of Friends of V. V. Mayakovsky propagates patriotic revolutionary art, continuing and developing its traditional applicability into the present day. The majority of artists hold to the classical concept of the Russian avant-garde: the concept of ‘VSECHESTVO’ – the use of any method. [8]

The use of any method – or should we say, the use of any material – goes beyond the original concept of everythingism as the equal value of all styles. In their now famous manifesto from 1913 Rayonists and Futurists, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov (both born in 1881) declared:

    We acknowledge all styles as suitable for the expression of our art, styles existing both yesterday and today—for example, cubism, futurism, orphism, and their synthesis, rayonism, for which the art of the past, like life, is an object of observation. [9]

Among “all styles” Goncharova and Larionov considered as suitable for their art, Russian folk art occupied a prominent role. Like other artists showing their works at Mir iskusstva / The World of Art exhibitions, Goncharova and Larionov stressed their closeness to “simple, uncorrupted people” [10], a closeness that manifested itself in their colourful paintings, but even more so in their sumptuous stage designs and ornamental costumes for Sergei Diagilev’s Ballet Russes, for which the artists recreated oriental fairy-tales.

In her article Natalia Goncharova: Towards Everythingism, curator and art historian Natalia Sidlina explains how a childhood spent in the Russian province fosters the love for rural craft:

    Goncharova was born on one of the family estates, south-west of Moscow. The Goncharov’s fortune and rise to the nobility had been built on textile manufacturing during the eighteenth century. By now, the household had become increasingly impoverished, and when Natalia was eleven years old, her father, ‘an architect and distinguished mathematician’, moved the family to Moscow. Goncharova lived through the changes affecting a largely agrarian society on the verge of industrialisation, and the dream of the Russian countryside as a lost Eden was imprinted on her memory for the rest of her life. Another turning point for her was meeting Mikhail Larionov, a fellow student from Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, who became her life-long partner. Larionov came from Tiraspol and would introduce her to the flamboyant, artistically and socially charged culture of the Southern provinces. [11]

Many protagonists of the Russian avant-garde adapted elements of folk art. It is obvious with respect to Malevich and Kandinsky, before, but the same goes for others – even for the elegant “dandy” Mayakovsky, whose ROSTA windows were inspired by the “Lubok”, Russian broadsides (broadsheets or catchpenny prints) [12]. Luboks are decorative, brightly coloured prints with text or text elements, illustrating many activities of religious and social life, and also featuring political satire; they first became popular in the 17th century. When we look at those Mayakovsky-inspired works Andrey Khlobystin and Maya Khlobystina exhibited in 1988, we notice the decorativeness of the lubok (see Chapter 2).

"The Mice are burying the Cat". An 18th-century Russian lubok print with a very popular plot, that of the mice burying the cat. Wikipedia Public Domain
"The Mice are burying the Cat".
An 18th-century Russian lubok print with a very popular plot, that of the mice burying the cat.
Wikipedia Public Domain
more>> See also: Hannelore Fobo – Art into Life: Agitprop and Vladimir Mayakovsky more>>




In his text Zhivopis’ vsekov (Живопись всеков / Painting of the Everythingists, 1914), a theory of “everythingism” on the basis of Larionov’s statements, Mikhail le-Dantiyu (Le Dantiu) defines the lubok as continuing “great art”. To le-Dantiyu, “great art” is a category opposed to academic art influenced by the West, and the lubok represents “great art” because it has absorbed strong influences from the East, from Turkey and from Persian fairy-tales etc.[13]

In her preface to the catalogue for her second solo exhibition in Moscow, 1913, Natalia Goncharova stressed the importance of Eastern influences on her work

    For me the East means the creation of new forms, an extending and deepening of the problems of color. This will help me to express contemporaneity—its living beauty—better and more vividly.[14]

Novikov’s texts don’t suggest that “easterness” was a main criterion to for his enthusiasm for Larionov, but it was this very “easterness” that brought in folk art and Novikov’s much appreciated neoprimitivism into Larionov’s work. A direct impact of Larionov can be seen in a painting by Ivan Sotnikov, his composition Venus, carried out in the style of Larionov’s Venus from 1912; Larionov's painting is in the collection of the State Russian Museum. Sotnikov even dated his work to 1912.

Mikhail Larionov: Venus Oil on canvas, 68 x 85.5 cm, 1912. The reproduction is from the Larionov retrospective at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, in 2018/2019. Web 20 August 2020.
Mikhail Larionov: Venus
Oil on canvas, 68 x 85.5 cm, 1912.
The reproduction is from the Larionov retrospective at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, in 2018/2019. Web 20 August 2020.
Ivan Sotnikov Venus.
Oil and tempera on canvas, 60 x 85 cm, undated
The reproduction of this work is from the 2012 New Artists MMOMA (Moscow Museum of Modern Art) catalogue, p. 14.




Unfortunately, no information is available as to when Sotnikov actually painted his Venus. [15] It would be interesting to know whether this happened around the time of Larionov’s exhibition at the Russian Museum or later. But generally speaking, Larionov’s folk-art primitivism or neo-primitivism – a main aspect of his art – was more important for another Leningrad underground group: the Mitki, to which Sotnikov was close. This can be seen in Olga Florenskaya’s interpretation of Larionov’s silhouette figures, while Alexander Florensky, her husband and another Mitki member, created his contribution to Evgenij Kozlov’s “2x3m” collection as a huge lubok entitled A Russian Album.

Mikhail Larionov: Осень • Autumn, 1912 Oil on canvas, 136 x 115cm, 1912. The reproduction is from the Larionov retrospective at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, in 2018/2019. Web 20 August 2020. Olga Florenskaya Девушка и сенбернар 2 • Girl and Saint Bernard Watercolour on paper, 1995
Mikhail Larionov: Осень • Autumn, 1912
Oil on canvas, 136 x 115cm, 1912.
The reproduction is from the Larionov retrospective at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, in 2018/2019. Web 20 August 2020.
Olga Florenskaya
Девушка и сенбернар 2 • Girl and Saint Bernard
Watercolour on paper, 1995


Alexander Florensky Русский альбом • A Russian Album Oil on canvas, 2 x 3m, 1995. Collection (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov "2x3m", Berlin.
Alexander Florensky
Русский альбом • A Russian Album
Oil on canvas, 2 x 3m, 1995.
Collection (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov "2x3m", Berlin. more >>




Ivan Sotnikov Море Море• Sea Sea Diptych with two painted washboards, appr. 50 x 70 cm, 1989 The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin
Ivan Sotnikov
Море Море • Sea Sea
Diptych with two painted washboards, appr. 50 x 70 cm, 1989
The Kozlov & Fobo Collection, Berlin

In this way, such decorative folklore elements could enter the works of the New Artists from two sides. They could enter them as a direct inspiration from folk art or primitivism, also in the form of “ready-mades” or slightly changed objets trouvés, for instance with Ivan Sotnikov’s diptych on washboards Sea-Sea.  Or they could reflect the works of Russian avant-gardists, who had appropriated such folk elements for their art. 




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Петроградское Воскресенье • Sunday in Petrograd Gouache on paper, coated 26 x 21.8 cm, 1980
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov:
Петроградское Воскресенье •
Sunday in Petrograd
Gouache on paper, coated
26 x 21.8 cm, 1980



The decorative painting style of folk art is present E-E Kozlov’s oil and gouache paintings from 1980 and 1981, although in different ways. Some of these compositions, like “Sunday in Petrograd” with its geometrical shapes and contrasting colours, are close to naïve painting, and figures have no facial expressions. Others like “Phoenix” resemble those bright and meticulously carried out designs from painted wooden cutting boards decorating people’s house walls, well known from Gorodets painting.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Феникс • Phoenix Gouache on paper, 27.9 x 36.4 cm, 1981 The Tretyakov Gallery Collection, Moscow Gorodets painting, From: S. P. Chuianov: Городецкая роспись / Gorodets Painting, Izdatel'stvo Litera, 2009
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov:
Феникс • Phoenix
Gouache on paper, 27.9 x 36.4 cm, 1981
The Tretyakov Gallery Collection, Moscow
Gorodets painting, From:
S. P. Chuianov: Городецкая роспись
/ Gorodets Painting, Izdatel'stvo Litera, 2009 external link >>




Many pictures display family scenes in a rural setting. To an extent, these motifs are Kozlov’s reminiscences of his mother’s village in the Kostroma oblast where he often spent the summers.

Gorodets painting, From: S. P. Chuianov: Городецкая роспись / Gorodets Painting, Izdatel'stvo Litera, 2009
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Покой Родного Дома • In the Peace of One's Home
Tempera, gouache, and watercolour on cardboard, 32.3 x 34.4 cm, 1981

An example is a small gouache painting with a double title: Dance with a Kiss / A Kiss in the Rye. Some of these rural scenes have a religious connotation, like In the Peace of One's Home. In the latter, Kozlov’s concept of creating shapes similar to plants is particularly impressive: the softly curved figure dominating the composition seems to grow from the earth like a flower. Just like leaves emerge from the nodes of a stem, the fiugre’s legs, torso and arms unfold in an upward movement, merging their energy in the head, a flower bud. In this way, the composition creates a strong illusion of possessing life.

While the works just described display certain features of folk art, either stylistically or through their subjects, but are not folk art themselves, there are also some works of applied art that can be directly connected to folk art. At that time, Kozlov created a coat bar with hooks, a flower stand and some other wooden objects as a gift to his mother who used them as everyday objects. He also carved and painted a wood figurine of a soldier standing on a drum.

But it wasn’t only Russian folk-style he adapted for applied art objects. When the bathroom was to be tiled, he designed seventeen tiles – with gouache, the project was not finalised – taking up a tradition from Southern Germany.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov. When my dearest… Gouache and gold bronze on ceramic tiles, seven pieces, 15 x 15 x 0.4 cm each, 1980. The text in the central piece reads "Fährt mein Liebster aufs Land so gib ihm mein Pfand". (When my dearest travels across the land please give him my pledge)
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov.
When my dearest…
Gouache and gold bronze on ceramic tiles, seven pieces, 15 x 15 x 0.4 cm each, 1980.
The text in the central piece reads "Fährt mein Liebster aufs Land so gib ihm mein Pfand". (When my dearest travels across the land please give him my pledge)


Painted wall tiles from Swabia, Southern Germany (Schwäbische Ofenwandplättchen) Top row: tiles produced by the Kipfer familiy, Holzgerlingen, end of 18th to first quarter of the 19th century. Bottom row: tiles produced by the Dompert family, Simmozheim, second quarter of the 19th century. Landesmuseum Württemberg, (Außenstelle Museum für Volkskultur in Württemberg, Waldenbuch). Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) Photo: Andreas Praefke 2007
Painted wall tiles from Swabia, Southern Germany (Schwäbische Ofenwandplättchen)
Top row: tiles produced by the Kipfer familiy, Holzgerlingen, end of 18th to first quarter of the 19th century. Bottom row: tiles produced by the Dompert family, Simmozheim, second quarter of the 19th century. Landesmuseum Württemberg, (Außenstelle Museum für Volkskultur in Württemberg, Waldenbuch). Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Photo: Andreas Praefke 2007
I

In Swabian homes of the 18th and 19th centuries, painted tiles (Schwäbische Ofenwandplättchen) covered the walls next to a stove to protect them from the heat. Displaying scenes with people and animals – for example hunters or coaches drawn by horses – these tiles are fine examples of ornamental folk art, and they were clearly the source for Kozlov’s works: some of his compositions faithfully copy of the German tiles, including the German script and the technique of extending the narration over several tiles, for which Kozlov assembled seven tiles in a row. The other designs also represent typical folklore genres – costumes, celebrations etc., including some exotic motifs, like that of an Asian lady with a huge umbrella rice straw hat   

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Untitled (Asian Lady) Gouache and gold bronze on ceramic tile, 15 x 15 x 0.4 cm , 1980. (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Untitled (Car) Gouache and gold bronze on ceramic tile, 15 x 15 x 0.4 cm , 1980.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov:
Untitled (Asian Lady)
Gouache and gold bronze on ceramic tile, 15 x 15 x 0.4 cm , 1980.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov:
Untitled (Car)
Gouache and gold bronze on ceramic tile, 15 x 15 x 0.4 cm , 1980.



(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Танец с поцелуем / Поцелуй во ржу • A Dance with a Kiss / A Kiss in the Rye  Ink, gouache, and water colour on cardboard, 54.4 x 44.2 cm, 1981. Henri Matisse La Danse • Dance Oil, on canvas, 260  × 391 cm, 1909/1910, Fragment (left half). The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
Left: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Танец с поцелуем / Поцелуй во ржу • A Dance with a Kiss / A Kiss in the Rye
Ink, gouache, and water colour on cardboard, 54.4 x 44.2 cm, 1981.
Right: Henri Matisse
La Danse • Dance Oil, on canvas, 260  × 391 cm, 1909/1910,
Fragment (left half). The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Yet interpreting Kozlov’s gouache and oil paintings from 1980 and 1981, we shouldn’t focus on folklore sources alone. In the swinging, diagonally bent figures of A Dance with a Kiss / A Kiss in the Rye, we may just as well recognise the figures’ movement from Matisse’s painting Dance. Matisse’s famous painting from 1910 is one of the masterpieces of the Hermitage. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Kozlov knew it perfectly well [16].

Proposing Matisse’s influence might seem far-fetched with respect to a work so obviously connected to Russian folk art, but it is not implausible. It is a question of the possibility or impossibility of separating western influences from native roots – more exactly, of an artist assimilating western influences in such a way that they will manifest themselves indirectly, as “undercurrents” within native roots.

The example of A Dance with a Kiss shows that even “direct” folk art influences cannot be extracted unambiguously from Kozlov’s work, because the same type of composition may be found in a modern work. But what inspired Matisse? Apparently, a type of French folk dance, a fishermen dance from the Southern French city of Collioure – or was it Blake’s watercolour "Oberon, Titania and Puck with fairies dancing" from 1786, or both? Each step further back to opens a host of possibilities.

The situation gets indeed all the more complicate when we set out to trace a primitivism work to its very origins. To put it differently: if Ivan Sotnikov’s Venus is clearly based on Larionov’s Venus, then what is Larionov’s Venus based upon? Larionov's style may be folk or primitive art, but the composition of a resting Venus with Cupid is taken from Western painting (Lorenzo Lotto, Paris Bordone etc). Larionov’s and Goncharova’s native roots are less homogeneous than their emphasis on folk art suggests.

Both Larionov and Goncharova were intimately familiar with contemporary French art, with Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Braque and others. Those styles had an impact on their works, which their manifesto Rayonists and Futurists reflects, but at the same time, around 1912-13, like a pupil realising the shortcomings of her teachers, Goncharova accused her Western artist fellows of a lack of originality:

    I express my deep gratitude to Western painters for all they have taught me. […]

    Yet I turn away from the West because for me personally it has dried up and because my sympathies lie with the East. The West has shown me one thing: everything it has is from the East. [17]

In a footnote to that sentence, Goncharova explains modern Western art as syncretic, a kind of eclecticism having appropriated everything from the East. What she proposes is a shortcut leading directly to her eastern roots, because the West “served merely as an intermediate point”.

    The impressionists from the Japanese. The synthetists, Gauguin from India spoiled by its early renaissance. From the islands of Tahiti he apprehended nothing, apart from a tangible type of woman. Matisse—Chinese painting. The cubists—Negroes (Madagascar), Aztecs. As for the past—certain historians are sadly mistaken in deducing a Romanesque influence, even a German influence, on our icons. This is so only in isolated cases; generally speaking, what is the Romanesque style but the last stage of Byzantine development? Romanesque style is based on Grecianized, Eastern, Georgian, and Armenian models. If Eastern influence reached us in a roundabout way, then this does not prove anything—its path was from the East, and the West, as now, served merely as an intermediate point. Suffice it to consider Arabian and Indian depictions to establish the genesis of our icons and of the art that has hitherto existed among the common people.[18]

Goncharova may have analysed the West correctly, but considering the West as nothing but an intermediate point in a roundabout way – that is, between going from the East to the West and then back again – makes me wonder about her proposed shortcut. After all, the task is not to cut a long matter short; otherwise we might just as well say that life is nothing but a detour between birth and death that may be shortened.

When eastern art reaches the East again in a roundabout way, this gives an artist the opportunity of a twofold assimilation of such art – through the West, in the case of Picasso’s cubism, and also directly from its African sources. It is not a question of better or worse, it is simply different.

Timur Novikov, who, in 1986, insisted on the higher-ranking quality of native roots over western influences, (deliberately) overlooked those western influences present in avant-garde art we exemplified in Larionov’s Venus. We may apply to Novikov Jane A. Sharp’s statement concerning the Russian avant-garde of the early twentieth century “[…] the Russian avant-garde artist’s ambition to counter West European hegemony in the visual arts reveals a pattern of assimilation and disavowal”[19]. All we have to do is to just slightly adapt this statement to the 1980s and change “West European hegemony” to “American hegemony”.

Ultimately, the point is not whether any influences reach us directly or indirectly, but whether we are able to create what Evgenij Kozlov calls “a primary matrix” (первичная матрица) – something that is new not only as a new product, like fashion, but substantially new. I used the term “threshold of autonomy” earlier; it implies a degree of achievement that goes beyond originality. We might call it the work’s novelty. Whether a work is indeed a novel work – substantially new – might be understood immediately or later, and at any rate, remains a matter of interpretation. I will conclude this chapter suggesting a way to assess novelty.

In the light of western hegemony, to define the novelty of the works created by the New Artists depends to no little degree on our points of reference: one point of reference is Soviet art of the 1980s, and another one is international art of the 1980s. That is, a particular work might have been new for the Soviet Union, but not new for the World. If we take into consideration works with native roots, we will have to add the Russian avant-garde as a third point of reference.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov and Timur Novikov with Novikov's work from 1995 for Kozlov's collection "2x3m" more >>. The rising sun was Novikov's logotype. In the the background: four of Kozlov's works from the cycle “Miniatures in Paradise”, 1995 more >> Russkoee Polee, The Russian Field No 2, studio E-E Kozlov, Berlin 1996. Photo: Hannelore Fobo
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov and Timur Novikov with Novikov's work from 1995 for Kozlov's collection "2x3m" more >>. The rising sun was Novikov's logotype.
In the the background: four of Kozlov's works from the cycle “Miniatures in Paradise”, 1995 more >>
Russkoee Polee, The Russian Field No 2, studio E-E Kozlov, Berlin 1996.
Photo: Hannelore Fobo




These three points of reference offer a wide field for interpretation. The example of Novikov‘s “Horizons”, the works the artist is today best known for, shows that we have different options to create references. We can associate those tiny stencilled figures – applied to two pieces of textile sewed together – with decorative revolutionary art, as I did earlier (native roots). We can relate the horizon to symbolise the world’s proportionality, as does Ekaterina Andreeva [20] (universal approach = international art). We can follow Novikov’s own statement in his text from 1989 for an exhibition in Turku: “My works are simple. They are not overloaded with information.”[21] In this case, we could assess Novikov’s deliberate reduction of forms as conceptual art (international art). Finally, we can interpret the “Horizons” as a Soviet counterpart to Pop art (Soviet art).

Whatever our point of reference, we will have to argue why such particular features make the “Horizons” substantially new, and we will also have to argue why we consider a particular point of reference to be more relevant than another one [22].

Finally, we may dismiss certain arguments as not being relevant, such as Allen (Alik) Tager’s argument from his 2010 book V budushchee voz’mut ne vsekh  / Not Everybody Will be Taken into the Future. Tager claims that Novikov took his ideas from drawings children created at his, Tager’s, art circles, and denies Novikov‘s concept originality altogether. [23]

In other words, we may support a specific argument according to what appears plausible to us, and we don’t necessarily follow the artist’s personal interpretation, although we would consider it whenever such an argument is available.




previous page: Chapter 5. The inclusion or exclusion of stylistic influences
next page: Chapter 7. Beyond the trend: Kozlov’s portrait of Timur Novikov (1988)




[1] See Fobo, Hannelore. Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists, Chapter 7 • The New Artists group and the New Artists movement, 2018. Web 20 August 2020.

http://www.e-e.eu/Timur-Novikovs-New-Artists-lists/index7.html

[2] See Chapter 1, footnote 3

[3] Another one of these works, entitled In Memory of V.V. Mayakovsky and dated to 1984, is printed in the New Artists MMOMA catalogue (2012) on page 148. However, I haven’t found it documented in pictures taken before 1988. Bearing in mind Bugaev’s “flexible” attitude with regard to dating and attributing works, I wouldn’t entirely exclude the possibility that he antedated this work retrospectively, when he gave it to the Russian Museum in 1991. An example of Bugaev’s retrospective changes can be found with the painting “Beach” from the (late) 1980s, originally signed by Oleg Kotelnikov, Andrey Medvedev and Viktor Tsoy. When Bugaev showed the painting at the exhibition “ASSA” in 2013, he had added his own signature and his label “ASSA” to the composition. See press release by artists Oleg Zaika, Evgenij Kozlov, Oleg Maslov, and Inal Savchenkov from 19 November 2013. Web 28 August 2020. http://www.e-e.eu/ASSA/Oleg-Zaika-Evgenij-Kozlov-Oleg-Maslov-Inal-Svachenkov-press-release-19-november-2013.htm

[4] Novikov, Timur. “The New Artists” Lecture March 2002 for the Pro Arte Institute, Saint Petersburg. Web 20 August 2020 https://docplayer.ru/25805056-Lekciya-byla-prochitana-v-institute-pro-arte-v-marte-2002-goda.html  and in print form in Russian and English in the catalogue “Timur”, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow 2013, ed. by Ekaterina Andreeva, Nelly Podgorskaya and Ksenia Novikova, pp 110

In Novikovs account of Larionov there are, however, some strange misinterpretations, for instance the false claim that Larionov hated Picasso. In fact, Mikhail le-Dantiyu, who, in 1914, wrote a theory of “everythingism” based on Larionov’s statements, called Picasso “a master who will be considered a classic”. See: John E. Bowlt. Mikhail Ledantiu Zhivopis' vsekov. In: Minuvshchee. Isoticheskiy almanakh 5 [Михаил Ледантю Живопись всеков Публикация Дж. Э.Боулта in: Минувшее. Исторический альманах 5], ed. Valdimir Alloy, Atheneum Paris 1988, p. 192

[5] Potapov, Igor (pseud. Timur Novikov)

“Novye Khudozhniki” (Russian) [“Новые художники”,] “The New Artists” (English), 1986

In: Novye Khudozhniki [Новые художники]  / The New Artists, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, edited by Ekaterina Andreeva and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, p. 28

[6] Press release for the exhibition 7 Independent Artists Live from Leningrad, Young Unknowns Gallery, 2-27 February 1988. Web 3 October

http://www.e-e.eu/Young-Unknowns-Gallery/index3.html

[7] Ibid.

[8] Typescript catalogue for the exhibition 7 Independent Artists Live from Leningrad, Young Unknowns Gallery, 2-27 February 1988. Web 3 October Web 3 October 2020.

http://www.e-e.eu/Young-Unknowns-Gallery/index2.html

While the Russian text displays both signatures, the English translation, a shortened version of the original Russian text, mentions only Bugaev.

[9] Все стили ли признаем годными для выражения нашего творчества, прежде и сейчас существующие, как то: кубизм, футуризм, орфизм и их синтез лучизм, для которого, как жизнь, все прошлое искусство является объектом для наблюдения.

The English translation of this fragment is from:

Goncharova, Natalia and Larionov, Mikhail. Rayonists and Futurists: A Manifesto, 1913  (ЛУЧИСТЫ И БУДУЩНИКИ. Манифест / Luchisty i budushchniki. Manifest),

First published in: Oslinyikhvost i mishen [ Donkey's Tail and Target] (Moscow, July 1913)

John E. Bowlt (Ed. and translator): Russian Art of the Avant-Garde. Theory and Criticism 1902-1934, New York, 1976, p.90

The text itself doesn’t use the term “everythingism”, but in footnote 4 on p. 302 to the phrase “We acknowledge all styles as suitable for the expression of our art”, John E. Bowlt calls this quote “An allusion to vsechestvo [literally, ‘everythingness‘], i. e, the concept that all styles are permissible—an attitude shared by Shevchenko.”

[10] “Long live nationality! We march hand in hand with our ordinary house painters. […] Simple, uncorrupted people are closer to us than this artistic husk that clings to modern art, like flies to honey.” Ibid., p.90

[11] Sidlina, Natalia, Natalia Goncharova: Towards Everythingism. In: Natalia Goncharova, ed by Matthew Gale and Natalia Sidlina, Tate Enterprises Ltd 2019, pp. 17/18.

‘an architect and distinguished mathematician’ is a quote from Marina Tsetaeva’s biography “Natalia Goncharova. (zhizn’ I tvorchestvo)” Prometei, Molodaia Gvardia, vol. 7, Moscow 1969, pp 170.

[12] See Fobo, Hannelore. “Art into Life: Agitprop and Vladimir Mayakovsky”, June 2020.

Web 20 August 2020.

http://www.e-e.eu/Agitprop-and-Mayakovsky/index.htm

[13] […] развитие лубка — искусства народного, непосредственного и, следовательно, идущего от традиций прежнего «большого искусства». Это было неизбежно и формы лубочной живописи очень определенно говорят за свою преемственность. Но ниже можно видеть очень ясно выраженное влияние Востока — персов, турок и т.д., так как на примитивах это влияние выражено откровеннее, чем на законченном искусстве.

The article was published by John E. Bowlt in English and retranslated into Russian in:

Михаил Ледантю Живопись всеков Публикация Дж. Э.Боулта in: Минувшее. Исторический альманах 5,

Mikhail le-Dantiyu Zhivopis’ vsekov. Publikaciia Dzh. E. Boulta in: Minuvshee. Isotricheski al’manakh 5.

ed. Valdimir Alloy, Atheneum Paris 1988 P. 196

online: Web 15 September 2020. http://az.lib.ru/l/ledantju_m_w/text_1914_zhivopis_vsekov.shtml

[14] Goncharova, Natalia, Preface to Catalogue of One-Man Exhibition, 1913.  

In: The Russian Avant-Garde and Radical Modernism. An Introductory Reader. Edited by Dennis G. Ioffe and Frederick H. White, Brighton, MA 02135, USA, 2012, p. 93

[15] Oleg Kotelnikov also painted a version of Larionov’s Venus, but unlike that of Sotnikov, it was more of a caricature of the original. A reproduction of this painting from 1983 is in Andrey Khlobystin‘s book Shizorevolutsiia (2017) on page 27.

[16] See Chapter 5, footnote 1

[17] Goncharova, Natalia, Preface to Catalogue of One-Man Exhibition, 1913.  

In: The Russian Avant-Garde and Radical Modernism. An Introductory Reader. Edited by Dennis G. Ioffe and Frederick H. White, Brighton, MA 02135, USA, 2012, pp. 91/92

Online text Web 11 August 2020. https://arthistoryproject.com/artists/natalia-goncharova/the-rise-of-russian-art/

[18] Ibid., p. 149

[19] Sharp, Jane A. “The Revolutionary Art of Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov” in: The Russian Avant-Garde and Modernism. Edited by Dennis G. Ioffe and Frederick H. White, Brighton, MA 02135, USA, 2012, p. 173

[20] Timur, ed. Ekaterina Andreeva, Ksenia Novikova, Nelly Podgorskaya, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, 2013 p. 15 (MMOMA exhibition catalogue)

[21] Ibid., p. 95

[22] Obviously, if it is new with respect to international art, it is also new for Soviet art, but not necessarily vice versa, as international art the higher-ranking category that includes all art.

[23] Tager, Allan. V budushchee voz’mut ne vsekh  [В будущее возьмут не всех] (Not Everybody Will be Taken into the Future“), Tager Publishing House, Saint Petersburg, 2010.

In his book, mainly a compilation of Tager’s interviews with artists from the New Artist group, the author calls Timur Novikov a plagiarist. Although Tager substantiates his argument, the book led to a polemic with Novikov’s supporters – not only because of Tager’s controversial point of view, but because Tager manipulated the text of the interviews in such a way that they appear to support his arguments. Since a number of such grossly distorting features also concerned Kozlov’s and my own contributions to the book, I published an article on this controversy shortly after the book came out (in Russian). Web 15 September 2020. http://www.e-e.eu/Allen-Tager/Timur-Novikov.htm




Introduction: The ostensibly synchronistic evolution of the New Artists

Part One: The New Artists and the Russian avant-garde

Chapter 1. Timur Novikov: native roots and western influences

Chapter 2. Perestroika, the Mayakovsky Friends Club, and pop art

Chapter 3. E-E Kozlov: Two Cosmic Systems

Chapter 4. ROSTA Windows stencil techniques – updated

Chapter 5. The inclusion or exclusion of stylistic influences

Chapter 6. From Mayakovsky to Larionov and folk art: something of everything

Chapter 7. Beyond the trend: Kozlov’s portrait of Timur Novikov (1988)

Chapter 8. Cosmopolitism and ethnicity: how Russian is the Russian avant-garde?

Chapter 9. Narodnost’: quite simply the people

Part Two: E-E Kozlov and Peterhof

Chapter 10. Fishing at Peter the Great’s pond
Chapter 11. The Petrodvorets Canteen Combine

Chapter 12. Galaxy Gallery

Chapter 13. A perception of pureness

– Works cited –



Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.

Uploaded 24 September 2020
Last updated 3 October 2020