We managed to catch up with South Florida-based artist Ruben Ubiera before his upcoming show, Urban Narrative, at 101 Exhibit this Friday September 7th (click here for flyer). Ruben will be showing alongside Brazilian-born Claudio Ethos in a show co-sponsored by the Michael Margulies Artist Agency and Juxtapoz magazine. Between brightening up Miami’s Wynwood with bright swashes of color and being named Best Street Artist of 2012 by the Miami New Times, Ubiera gave us a sneak peek at his work and dropped a little knowledge about himself and the show.
305: Tell us about yourself.
Ruben Ubiera: My name is Ruben Ubiera, I am a Dominican born artist residing in South Florida, and I’m currently working full time as an urban artist and freelance as a Creative Director – wherever the creative winds may take me. As a young man, I traveled a lot to the United States, since I had family in N.Y., but I it wasn’t until I lived there, that I was influenced by Graffiti… and my world changed. I lived in South Bronx, in the 80’s, which basically is like saying I lived in the worst part of East Beirut. It seemed like the world had forgotten about that place. Burned down buildings everywhere, cars torn apart on every corner, drugs, fights, the worst you can imagine, BUT THE BEST GRAFFITI – RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. I believe it saved my life, because even though I never went out bombing, it showed me there was something more to this place. Graffiti was EVERYWHERE you looked. It kept me learning, wanting to understand what all this was about. Now I could draw, very well actually… but I knew this was different. The fluidity of the forms, the colors, techniques… back then, I would refer to it as: “street cubism” since I didn’t know what to call it. I recall seeing some kid doing a piece on a wall and saw him go right over a dead rat (didn’t move it… he just covered it all and finished his work) and it blew my mind, and really changed my perspective. I realized that the surface didn’t matter. It was unlike anything I have ever been taught. It went against the rules in every way imaginable, and I loved it. Now I work on found objects only. Cardboard, wood, broken skateboards, any kind of item discarded by society, I recycle. I believe these items are the base and the frame for my artwork. It gives the viewer the idea of owning a piece of the urban landscape, right in their room.
305: I see you have a huge collection of skateboards. Tell me how skateboarding influences your art.
Yes, skateboard was another big part of my life. Even in Dominican Republic, there was a healthy scene there. And it was more acceptable than here, since people really didn’t understand (or care) why we were doing it. To some, I was a fool… in my country, if you didn’t play baseball, you’re not Dominican… lol. So I played. But I was never a fan of team sports. If I was going to play, I liked to be the captain, or nothing at all. I like one man sports (swimming, boxing, martial arts, etc…) so there was something magical about this skateboarding thing: it wasn’t a sport, yet it was extremely challenging. It was almost all mental. No matter who tries to help you and teach you, at the end, it was you, the deck, and the obstacle. Either you’re going to land, or you’re going to bust your ass. Period….and anyone who has been bitten by the Skate bug knows it: it gets under your skin. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT. I skated until last year, since art has been consuming most of my time, plus I had to realize that I was an artist who skates, not a skater who paints. I can’t afford to break my hand. But I am still in touch with that industry. I follow it and have been collecting decks for a while. Now, I don’t even have space on my walls for anything, since they’re covered with decks from the 80’s and 90’s. It’s pretty funny how much it relates to my art, since it takes you places you wouldn’t be able to go in a car. Keeps me close to the streets and the youth, and it gives me a different outlook on things. Graffiti and skateboarding go hand in hand, when you think about it.
305: Who/what will be featured in the show and what can we expect?
For this upcoming show, I am focusing on Gorillas. Which is something I am getting to be known for… “THE GORILLA GUY”.. lol. But I do believe strongly on concept before execution, so don’t just expect simple repetitions of it. No stencils. As of right now, I don’t even know how many pieces I will be having. I work my shows like I do a wall: I pick my palette, conceptualize and sketch loosely, then I just start creating… things seem to be more fun that way. More expressive. As a matter of fact, I still don’t have a single finalized piece. I work them all at the same time.
305: The image of the gorilla figures heavily into your work for the show and your murals. What does the gorilla represent?
A lot of people think that the gorilla its supposed to represent me, but the reality is that I created this ape under the concept of “the big gorilla in the room” – in this case, graffiti, the art form that no one wants to talk about but it’s right in your face, screaming. Strong, focused, yet wild and lawless.
305: What is your favorite cap/spray paint combination?
Honestly, I don’t have a favorite combination. I love spray paint. Outlining, filling, the speed of it. It’s simply amazing how much you can create in a limited amount of time. What I am in love with is creativity. To touch something and change it. The smooth transformation of the mundane to something new. It’s simply magical.
305: Do you have any rituals before painting?
If it’s a show or a painting, I play guitar. A LOT OF IT. It clears my mind. It takes me to another place. It allows me to conceptualize my ideas and put them in order. I also watch a lot of movies. I.. don’t know why… but it gets me in the mood. I have to feel comfortable and loose. I see it in my mind first, clearly. Then I paint it. I used to sketch my concepts very tightly, but I felt like if I had to adhere to my sketch, then the fun was all gone. It became a job, a task rather than a creative process. If it’s a mural, I have to touch the wall. Feel it. Caress it. Will it need to be primed or can I go at it raw… then I play guitar.. then I paint. Crazy. Never realized I had a ritual until now.
305: How do you know when a piece or a mural is done?
I guess when it’s balanced. When the colors, the contrast and the negative spaces play well with each other. One can always add more, but the piece can turn into something else. Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes less… it’s simply less. It all depends on the location and how the piece interacts with it’s surroundings.
305: Do you prefer murals or studio work? Or, what aspect of each do you like the most?
I love murals. To be out there, relating to and interacting with the world and society. People don’t realize that artists spend an incredible amount of hours creating while everyone sleeps. You have to be mentally focused to do this. Murals allow me to be out there while in my own cocoon. This doesn’t mean I don’t like studio work. Studio work is more relaxing, since you can take a lot of liberties. Focusing in this environment is not that hard. I can listen to music, enjoy my time. However, those who know me know that I thrive in chaos…
305: What is your favorite food/place to eat after a session of painting?
Lately I have been going to hole in the walls… lol. Couldn’t even tell you the names if I tried. I usually finish my work and I look like I had been hiding in a gutter. Paint all over my hands, hair, face, body, clothes. Sweaty and tired. Plus, by the time I’m done with a mural it seems everything is closed down, so I have to find places. Miami always has something open so I love to be adventurous. Go ahead fuckers, try something new. This city will never let you down.
305: Any shout outs?
Shout outs to Krave (wtf? when we tradin’ dude?), Kiki Valdez, CP-1, Jay Bellicchi (a.k.a.: FIFTYTHREE), Mr. MM, Pete Eyez Wollaeger, Angry Woebots (Still have a gorilla for you man), Billy Mode (still loving your stuff), Viajero (still waiting) and last but certainly not least: my Wife – without her, none of what you see out there would have been possible. ∆ £
Friday, September 7, 2012
7:00 to 11:00pm
101 NE 40 Street Miami FL, 33137
Click Here to RSVP