Visual Arts Alumna Daria Irincheeva '18 Presents 'Piling Wreckage' at big screen

Mădălina Telea Borteș
November 28, 2023

For Visual Arts alumna Daria Irincheeva '18, whose solo show at big screen in Brooklyn has been extended until December 3, 2023, memory serves as both catalyst and subject. The title of the show, Piling Wreckage, is borrowed from the philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin's essay, "On the Concept of History," in which he examines Angelus Novus, a 1920 monoprint by Paul Klee that depicts what Benjamin considered to be an image of the angel of history, whose "face is turned toward the past," and who "would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed." Klee's angel can neither return to the past nor remain in the present, however, because a storm has begun to rage, a storm that "propels him into the future."

In Irincheeva's Piling Wreckage, instead of angels, one sees meticulously embroidered skulls on watercolor-dyed cotton fabric, neon swirls suggestive of river tides hung next to a charred version of the same body of water, and, among many other pointed investigations into Soviet history, a wall of books whose contents are purposefully held back from the viewer. 

The first work one encounters is war. day. number. (95" x 272," with each panel 95" tall and 13" wide, 2022), which consists of 17 canvas panels upon which Irincheeva has painted a topographic disk that hurls forward in a motion reminiscent of heavenly bodies moving through space. The disc, which Irincheeva notes "represents the sun and the dissonance between the usual cycle of the day and the daily catastrophe unfolding since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war," shifts both in color (from a deep volcanic red to a pale blue-gray) and position along the charcoal gray horizon. As the disc moves, it sheds thin scraps of itself that fall onto the grounded plane below. It is easy to linger before this work that spans the gallery’s entire front wall, for in it, Irincheeva has condensed and juxtaposed the cyclical movement of observed time against the impersonal nature of planetary bodies.

Around the corner from war. day. number. one sees Bucha 1/22 and Bucha 3/22 (12” x 28,” 2022), two embroidered works made on watercolored cotton fabric wrapped around panels. On both panels, handwoven cotton threads take the shape of the river that runs through the town of Bucha near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Bucha 1/22 presents an aerial view of brightly colored green, yellow, ochre, and blue tidal patterns, whereas Bucha 3/22 is starkly black. Here, Irincheeva draws on the history of the diptych, a painting or relief carving made of two individual pieces set side by side. Upon standing before a diptych, the viewer's body forms the third point of a triangle that becomes a ritualistic point of poignant contemplation. 

When Bucha 1/22 and Bucha 3/22 were displayed at New Collectors Gallery last June, the gallery's director, Sibilla Maiarelli, aptly pointed out that by employing the diptych form, Irincheeva "forces us to reconcile with the thought that no matter how safe we feel, terror and destruction could wipe away our homes and those places that provide a sense of comfort." Indeed, the viewer is forced to hold two diametrically opposed ideas when standing before Bucha 1/22 and Bucha 3/22 alongside the lasting image of "the river as an allegory for the human catastrophe befallen upon that town in the form of the atrocities committed against civilians." 

In an excerpted serialized work on view in this exhibition, Empty Knowledge, which consists of hundreds of paintings, Irincheeva pushes the dialectic of history's events forward by recreating and reinterpreting the covers of books and magazines read and banned during the Soviet era. Hung on one of the gallery's walls are thirty-three oil and ink paintings rendered on boarded canvas, each measuring roughly eight by twelve inches. The details on these canvases are so precise one could believe they are screen printed instead of drawn by hand. On the wall to the right of these paintings one sees five books that are, in actuality, not books at all, but intricately painted recreations of book covers "written by authors imprisoned and/or killed by the Soviet state in various detention centers, or within the GULAG system, or simply shot at the edge of the mass graves in which they were buried," explains Irincheeva. Even to the uninformed observer, these five books present a haunting sensation: They are so realistic that one is immediately drawn in, forgetting that they hold no words inside. Upon learning of their authors' shared and tragic fate, one is faced with what these impenetrable tomes evince and the mind drifts back to Klee's angel who wanted to "make whole what has been smashed," or, at times, erased. 

big screen is located at 312 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY and open to the public every Saturday 12-5pm and by appointment, scheduled by emailing [email protected]. Piling Wreckage is curated by Emily Knapp.  

Daria Irincheeva (b. 1987; Leningrad, U.S.S.R.) lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley. She graduated with an MFA from Columbia University and has exhibited widely in the United States and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include: Continuous Function, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Russia (2019); Empty Knowledge, Christie's Moscow, Russia (2017); Circadian Rhythm, Postmasters Gallery, New York, NY (2014). Recent group presentations include: Unsettled, New Collectors Gallery, New York, NY (2022); Oficina, Dilalica space, Barcelona, Spain (2021); Time, Forward!, 58th Venice Biennial, V-A-C Zattere, Venice, Italy (2019); Nature/Nature, Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Vienna, Austria (2019). In 2020 Irincheeva was selected as one of 12 artists by The New York Times (alongside Torkwase Dyson, Cao Fei, and Tomashi Jackson) to reflect on the Financial Crisis in "12 Artists On: The Financial Crisis," in T Magazine.