Jesus Benavente: “Que No Quede Huella” at the Home Gallery, New York (Review)

Jesus Benavente: “Que No Quede Huella” at the Home Gallery, installation view, New York, 2022

jesus benavente
Que No Quede Huella (let there be no trace)
Organized by Elisa Gutierrez Eriksen

May 2 – May 28, 2022
opening on May 5 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
291 Grand St New York, NY

About four or five blocks east of Broadway at 291 Grand Street, slightly north of Chinatown, the Home Gallery has a window in which works of art are displayed. The piece “Que No Quede Huella”, which in English means “Let There Be No Trace”, is spelled out in neon red letters against a 55-inch screen with a series of 24/7 looping videos, from which cables go down. The artist Jesus Benavente comes from San Antonio. Born to Mexican-born parents, his art focuses on social awareness, particularly the prejudice and regularly violent treatment of Mexicans and other people of Latin American culture. The phrase “Que No Quede Huella” comes from a 1989 pop music hit in Mexico. It is ostensibly a love song, but its cultural and political implications have made it an anthem of contemporary Mexican life. As the Latin American population in New York and elsewhere grows, more and more artistic voices are speaking out, pointing to the flippant and less flippant disregard for current American cultural practices. Thus, a simple neon phrase in Spanish turns out to be an affirmation of intent, which the Mexican-American diaspora reaches for greater recognition and better treatment.

Jesus Benavente: “Que No Quede Huella” at the Home Gallery, installation view, New York, 2022

Three videos play in a one hour loop which can be seen behind the letters of the quote “Que No Quede Huella”, which comes from a song of lost love, written by Jose Guadalupe Esparza. The first scene depicts an image of Benavente’s hands as they press dozens of roses onto a concrete block, staining the block with the tinted liquor resulting from the artist’s action (the colors, rose petals and leaves, are respectively purple and green). The second scene presents a set of seven lit candles with religious motifs. And the third is a two-minute video, recorded by Benavente’s parents in their backyard in San Antonio. Unlike the first two videos, the last one differs in that it only lasts a short time and was shot out of focus. These cinematic sequences are both highly romantic, even with devotional overtones, but the implications of loss, consecration to the dead, and simple backyard domesticity establish an environment in which the song is embellished by memories, some of them affiliated with personal experiences, both private and public, and some of them evoking a darker atmosphere.

I was told that the song “Que No Quede Huella” is more than a hit in popular music; he accompanied Mexicans throughout their struggle to find new, safer homes, while reaffirming their cultural affiliation. How can a love song, in which the fear of a love lost and the memory of such loss, document a larger and less subtle difficulty such as social suffering and cultural contempt? We can only hope that social antagonisms and continued racial violence against minorities will dissipate as the struggle against white supremacy and fear of otherness continues. The song, which Benavente chooses so carefully for its full embrace of a culture of Mexican origin, thus becomes not only a private lament but also a political message: Mexicans are not alone in the United States, despite the long attempt here to limit the population. The last words of the neon sculpture, “no trace”, can be understood not only as an attempt to forget an old affair by the singer in love but also, perhaps, the desire to erase a memory whose origin will remain rooted in their culture.

Although Benavente is a Mexican-American artist, he doesn’t just speak to people like himself; it speaks to the Mexican people wherever they are.

Key words:
home gallery, Jesus Benavente, Jesus Benavente: “Que No Quede Huella” at Home Gallery, Que No Quede Huella
jonathan bonman

Jonathan Goodman is a New York-based art writer. For more than thirty years he has written on contemporary art for publications such as Art in America, the Brooklyn Rail, Whitehot Magazine, Sculpture and fronterad (a Madrid-based Internet publication). He currently teaches contemporary art writing and thesis essay writing at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.


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