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Photo by Heike Dempster
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Best Street Artist
What makes Ruben Ubiera so special? He eschews traditional canvases for urban-associated items such as the sides of buildings, skateboards, and scrapped wooden fencing. But then, so do a lot of painters. The difference is that his work gives a touch of humanity to city corners that would look otherwise desolate. His signature tag isn't just a name scrawled in spray paint; it's the combination of his inimitable style and unexpected subject matter (think giant gorillas). This artist's work is one part graffiti art and one part classical illustration fused with plenty of Miami soul. Born in the Dominican Republic, Ubiera came to South Florida by way of New York City to attend the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale on a full scholarship. His career as an artist began traditionally, rather than in the DIY manner of most street artists. But his vision of Miami through overlapping abstractions and collages is more at home on the sides of Wynwood's buildings and in the neighborhood's lesser-known art fairs than in traditional art spaces. In the sterility of a gallery, his work reads like the work of a graphic novelist surveying Miami one portrait at a time. And that's cool and all. But it's best viewed within the world that inspired it, where the imperfections of the raw wood and 3-D effect of the skateboards he paints complement their surroundings, and vice versa. It's street-inspired art that, in a way, inspires the street itself.