Daria Irincheeva has a sharp wit and keen sense of humor. Perhaps this is why she collaborates easily at Maurizo Cattelan’s Family Business gallery where she is director. Whenever I connect with her and the intense photographer Ruy Sanchez Blanco, I feel energized by our dialogue. Irincheeva’s solo exhibition Avoid This Water took place at Williamsburg’s Reverse Space gallery. The title was coincidentally a reference to hurricane Sandy which descended upon New York after the show was already titled. After visiting the gallery we all went for German beer and sausage at Radegast Hall & Biergarten on North 3rd street. Our conversations ranged from art history to mustard history to recent Russian history (a theme prevalent in Irincheeva’s work). You could call Irincheeva a conceptual artist
Noah Becker: Why did you name your exhibition Avoid This Water?
Daria Irincheeva: With most of my art I rely on my intuition more than on rational mathematical or theoretical explanations. Actually, the title came accidentally on one hot summer morning while walking. My friend said, “avoid this water,” and I really liked the combination of words. For the titles of my pieces and shows, I often use these kinds of combinations of words that I take from the books I read, or phrases I hear. I hope for these titles, in combination with the physical objects of my work, to be like a starting point for viewers to create their own associations, stories, or metaphorical paths.
NB: Have you ever worked in painting, or has your work always had an installation quality to it?
DI: I actually started with painting, and as I was studying first in St. Petersburg, which has a very strong classical academic influence, painting was emphasized. So, yes, in the beginning I was painting a lot because for three years I was taught academically how to paint, how to draw, and I used it in my first steps of understanding what art is. And now, as you saw in the exhibition, I use painted, stretched canvasses more as objects I can play with and transform into sculpture. For example, the books project, Empty Knowledge, consists of about 150 paintings, but those paintings function more as sculpture, as a kind of allegorical monument of the past.
NB: Where were you studying in St. Petersburg?
DI: I was at the University of Design where I studied Fashion, so you can therefore imagine how strong the classical influence in St. Petersburg is when one must study painting as part of the fashion design faculty! Oh my god, I was painting the same skeleton for three years! (laughs) After three years, I decided to change direction and moved to France to study contemporary art, first at the Contemporary Arts School of Annecy and then to the École des Beaux-arts de Lyon.
NB: How many years have you been the Director of Family Business Gallery?
DI: The gallery only opened in February, so, since then. It’s a very new gallery and I’m a very new Director, but have indeed been there from the very beginning. It’s been a very interesting experience and I’ve learned a lot. Now I have the feeling that I could install an exhibition with a budget of five dollars in one night. (laughs)
NB: Do you feel like your interaction with Maurizio Cattelan (co-founder of Family Business along with Massimilano Gioni) has been influential on your own work?
DI: I would say not on the philosophical nor conceptual level of my work, because that’s very personal and comes mostly from my past and my childhood, but definitely in having very high standards towards the quality of artworks, and properly managing their lives. And of course, through the experience of directing Family Business, where I’ve met so many highly professional and experienced artists and curators, contact from which one can learn so much and very quickly.
NB: Tell me where you met Maurizio again?
DI: I met Maurizio Cattelan in Venice in 2011. I was working for The V-A-C Foundation at that time. It’s the best art foundation in Russia, really intelligent, informed and modest. We had an exhibition during the Venice Biennale that was a collaboration between The V-A-C Foundation and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo called “Modernikon. Contemporary Art from Russia”, curated by Francesco Bonami. Maurizio and I met at our dinner party after the opening and from the very beginning became good friends. He’s really great, very easy going, funny, and serious all at the same time.
NB: How did you end up in New York?
DI: I came to New York to continue my studies. I’m at the School of Visual Arts in my senior year. I came to New York last July. So I’ve only been here for one and a half years.
NB: Is this your first solo exhibition?
DI: Yes, it’s my first solo exhibition, but I’ve been in many group shows before, including a really great one recently in London at Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Project and the 2012 Moscow Biennale for Young Art. I would say that group shows are much easier to participate in because you are part of a curator’s statement, and you don’t have as much personal responsibility. In a solo show, you need to make a strong personal statement, open yourself up to where it’s all about your thoughts, ideas, concepts and aesthetic views. So you cannot escape. (laughs)
You can see images of Avoid this water exhibition here: dariairincheeva.com