X-Rite Pantone is excited to sponsor ArtPrize Seven. Not only is it an inspiring event held right here in our hometown of Grand Rapids, but it gives us a chance to help people think about color differently. One way we’re accomplishing our goal is by letting the artists explain how they use color to create an impression with their artwork. We’ve already talked with Anne Lemanski,who created colorful collages for her ArtPrize 2015 exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Today we’ll explore the immersive mural created by Ruben Ubiera.
Ubiera is an outdoor muralist. This year, his ArtPrize Seven entry, In Our Element, is being installed on the arched US-131 Business and Front Avenue NW underpass. A major immersive mural created using acrylic and aerosol paints, it tells the history of street art as an artistic medium from Egyptian hieroglyphs, to Pre-Columbian codices, to 1980s tags, to Post-Graffism. Ubiera will use veiltail goldfish to narrate his story.
We wanted to learn more about how Ubiera incorporates color and texture and uses lighting to his advantage when planning an outdoor mural.
The role of color, light and texture
Color is a sensation in your mind – one that is affected by the color itself as much as it is by texture, shape, surrounding colors, and light. Ubiera’s ability to incorporate all of these aspects to directly impact the viewer’s impression is what makes his art so unique.
According to Ubiera, “Color, to me, is everything. It’s a mood setter, an equalizer. Your perspective and even the meaning of a piece can be altered, just by changing color. I believe in contrast in concept and execution, and in this particular mural, that will show.”
Since it’s actually the color of light reflecting off of an object that determines how a color will be perceived, a simple change can greatly affect the appearance of the color. For In Our Element, Ubiera will use the existing lights in the tunnel and the headlights of passing automobiles to achieve a dramatic effect. His choice of metallic paint will further amplify the effect.
Metallics add a unique vibrancy and visual appeal to color. The way metallic chips reflect the light can actually change the color, providing depth and even the appearance of movement. Ubiera’s use of metallic paints, his creative painting technique, and the interplay of shadow and light will give viewers the illusion of the fish swimming around and between the columns of the tunnel.
We wondered why Ubiera chose the veiltail goldfish for his mural. He said, “The tails. I envision the ‘flow’ that can be achieved with their tails, plus the three-dimensional aspects of the architecture will help me make them look like they’re floating – it will be cool. I’m hoping to be amazed—and to have viewers be amazed as well—since I have just envisioned this in my mind, planning contrast and color, but I love to just freestyle the figurative imagery once the work gets underway. This way the art is unique to the spot that it is painted on.”
Speaking of, Ubiera loves the spot that was chosen for his ArtPrize display because it has a lot of urban energy, nice architecture, and is covered and well lit. “As far as color goes, everything I chose was picked for the spot. The teal tone came from Flame, a local paint company, and the lights basically dictated what kind of paint I’m using for the finishing details: metallic paint from Modern Masters. Overall, the design was specifically conceptualized for the location.”
Texture also plays a role in Ubiera’s piece. “The texture on this wall is perfect. Smooth and flat, but what makes the wall for me is the arches. Without the arches, it would be just a boring rectangle with no visual breaks. I like spaces that are unique, and this one fits the bill.” Ubiera actually painted the fish to appear as if they are swimming around the columns.
While painting, Ubiera encountered a crack in the ceiling that let sunlight shine through. He incorporated this break in the architecture and used the light very literally. On the spot, he changed his plan and incorporated a hand holding a light saber. You don’t have to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate that creativity.
Ruben’s contribution to public art
Ubiera believes that public art is the best and most effective way to showcase a city’s heart, soul and spirit, and he’s very excited to once again be part of ArtPrize. “Without focusing on the competitive aspect, having been invited to such a competition inspires and motivates me. The city is gorgeous, the weather is beautiful, the people are amazing and young. The food is out of this world. I’m just hoping I can do something that the residents will be proud to have in their vicinity.”
Kelli Bodle, the curator for Ubiera’s art, knows the city will be proud. “When I attended ArtPrize as a visitor last year, I was most excited about the pieces that virtually subsumed their venues, almost like worlds unto themselves. So this year when I was chosen to curate the underpass, Ruben immediately sprang to mind. Besides being technically masterful, he creates complex narratives that incorporate the existing elements of a site to achieve a monumental tableau, of which the viewer is a part. I knew he would do more than just paint a pretty picture; he would immerse you in the world he creates.”
ArtPrize agrees. According to Katie Moore, ArtPrize Exhibitions Director, “Public art has a transformative effect on the community by starting larger conversations around art and creativity. During ArtPrize, art becomes the primary topic of conversation throughout the city. Everyone has different levels of understanding, as well as diverse opinions on each piece, but they all share a desire to learn more. As ArtPrize continues, Grand Rapids grows more and more as a creative community. There is a deep enthusiasm for art that is held by everyone throughout the year because of the accessibility of public art.”
If you’d like to read more about how color has inspired ArtPrize Seven, check out our interview with Conduit Studio, the creative mind behind the event’s “Celebration of Color” theme. Also, be sure to stop back here for the rest of our artist series.