100 Creatives: Ruben Ubiera, South Florida Artist of the Streets
Courtesy of Ruben Ubiera
In honor of our "People" issue, which will hit newsstands November 17, New Times proudly presents "100 Creatives," where we feature Miami's cultural superheroes. Have suggestions for future profiles? Let us know in the comments.
#95: Ruben Ubiera
Ruben Ubiera calls his style "postgraffism," or more preferably "urban pop," a careful blend of graffiti art and surrealism. The characters splashed across his large-scale murals are fantastical, inventive, and heavily inspired by the sights and sounds of urban living. He breathes life into the bare walls that beg to be struck with color and whimsy, and he uses paint as his tool in revealing the human experience.
Born in the Dominican Republic and having moved to the Bronx at age 15, Ruben Ubiera had an early introduction to graffiti art and saw firsthand the unique relationship between man and his urban environment. His art has no frames and is fluid in execution, much like the ever-changing city streets they line. Ubiera is known for his use of reclaimed objects – pieces of wood and even cigar boxes – with figures and stories depicting the complexity of human emotion in graphic display, always with a graffiti aesthetic.
Ubiera has certainly made his mark on this city. His murals decorate some of the most coveted walls in South Florida’s art spaces. He is regularly commissioned by local restaurants and agencies to add energy and distinction to their public spaces. Looking through Ubiera’s bright-colored lenses, it's easy to get lost in the narrative his work creates — an imaginative perspective on the urban evolution.
Courtesy of Ruben Ubiera
What was your last big project?
I have been blessed, and I have gotten very busy lately. I haven't been able to concentrate my efforts in as much gallery-driven work as I would like to, but I am having too much fun with public art, private commissions, and commercial work. My style works well with many brands, since I paint and draw very fast, figuratively, realistic, or abstract in a style I like to call postgraffism.
I just finished a large-scale mural and installations in a restaurant in Delray Beach, Lucille's, which recently opened. I finalized a new Tacocraft location in South Miami, with murals and installations. I have painted live and sold art at an auction for Canvas West Palm Beach, a mural program I'm going to be taking part of in Palm Beach County — created, curated, and directed by Nicolle Miller. I also completed a large-scale installation-mural at the new Lauderhill Public Library in Lauderhill. I took first place in the installation category at ArtPrize 7 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a very large-scale, very immersive postgraffism mural installation, and I proudly brought that award for our locals.
Plus, I just finished working with the Bushwick Collective on a large-scale mural in Wynwood — not spearheading it, but more like helping out with closing details. I love to stay engaged with the streets. I'm lucky to have good colleagues who keep me on the front line. Trying to stay local, since I believe a good, solid foundation is what I need before I start traveling the world, but the international projects are beginning to call: Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, etc. I had to start with the Dominican Republic, my country of origin, simply because I had to. I had not been back in a while. I also just closed some future deals... so we'll see.
What's your next big project?
My next big project is currently taking place in Deerfield Beach, at Sullivan Park. It's a public-art mosaic piece consisting of a 52-foot-diameter splash pad with water jets for children to play on. It's right in front of the Intracoastal. It's a deal changer for me since it's something I have wanted to do for a while: make urban art permanent, not temporary. I have been creating murals, but even murals eventually fade, regardless of where they are placed. With mosaics, the game changes — it's a permanent as it gets. All my characters, styles, etc., all on the wall (or the floor) forever. All created with the help from volunteers, to the tune of way over 800,000 pieces and more than a million cuts. Hey, no one said it would be simple. But it's happening nonetheless. I'm also preparing for Basel 2016.
What do you want Miami to know about you?
That I'm here, trying to change your surroundings, make them better. I believe this is the only place in which I am a "local artist"... Everywhere else, I am an "awesome artist." Why can't I just be an artist? I leave this town, I sell like hotcakes. Not that I'm not selling here, but I want Miami to support the arts because what's happening here is influencing the rest of the world. Don't imitate and follow; make your own. Let's keep it white-hot, Miami. We are young, so we can make this city even greater. There's a lot of room to grow. Believe this: Everyone is looking through their feed and wishing they were here.
What don't you want Miami to know about you?
I dance more salsa and merengue than what I paint. Also, I still want to go fishing and haven't been able to. I knooooow...
What's one thing you want people to know about Miami?
The lifestyle: Miami is always on, night and day. It's free-spirited and full of culture, a real blend. All these differences facing one another... and liking it. It's a great mix. A refreshing take every day/night. Plus the food. I am a foodie and love to find new places where to chow.
Great food, beautiful people (inside and out), and refreshing weather and atmosphere. It’s just a perfect mix.
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