Preview: Vinchen exhibit at Invisible Gallery

By Columbus Alive
From the October 20, 2011 edition

Vinchen believes that, all things being equal, street art is less of a blight on property values than the mortgage industry.

But if all things were equal, there wouldn’t be millions of people in dozens of cities currently taking to the streets and blogs. And Vinchen, Columbus’ most mysterious and outspoken street artist, might not feel so strongly protective of his or her actual identity (for brevity, from here I’ll opt for the masculine pronoun).

Vinchen’s usual choice of canvas makes him a criminal. Not even Rivet owners Scott and Laura Kuenzli, who have organized the artist’s first gallery exhibition, have seen his face — for their protection.

A prolific, high profile output adds to Vinchen’s notoriety. His work has appeared throughout central Columbus, from a Grandview billboard to the pond at Goodale Park.

Marked by a circular “V” logo, each shares progressive political messages about labor, big banks, corporate greed and more, as well as a sense of humor described by the artist as “utter bleakness with a laugh track.” Imagery draws on children’s entertainment and vintage advertising.

Open for two days only at Invisible Gallery, “Art? Show” provides Vinchen a safe house for free expression, allowing him to expand on the paste-ups and stencils he’s been placing around town on the fly for the past eight years.

“Rivet [came] along at a time when I had several ideas that I wanted to execute that would be difficult or incomprehensible in a public setting,” Vinchen explained via email.

Several of these are expressed in sculptural form, such as “When Pigs Fly 2 (Myth of Schmuckarus).” It updates the mythical tale of foolish, overly ambitious Icarus through a suit-clad, chest-down torso with wings made of dollar bills.

Vinchen offers a self-portrait at a copy machine in the mixed media installation “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Banksy,” as well as a response to those who suggest he’s aping the work of a certain British star of the international art world.

“I thought I would provide some insight, albeit sarcastic, into how I spend my evenings and weekends,” Vinchen explained.

It’s purely coincidence that his show, which has been in the works for a year, is arriving just as the similarly focused Occupy Wall Street movement has gained traction.

The protests may not do anything to progress the legal case for street artists, and Vinchen expressed concern that the systemic problems behind the income gap fueling them are still being ignored, but he also said, “I think these movements are a great start, and it’s about time.”

Photo by Tessa Bargainnier

"Portrait of an Artist as a Young Banksy"

"When Pigs Two (Myth of Schmuckarus)"