Chuy Benitez Houston Cultura

March 7, 2008 – April 12, 2008 Mezzanine Gallery

Artist Statement

“When I moved to Houston in 2005, I found that the Mexican American community was filled with miles of uncharted territory to be encountered and photographed. After three years of interacting with the community, I still see so much more to be captured, but am happy with the people I’ve encountered and the images I have managed to produce. These images were made to bring appreciation to the cultural vibrance of the Mexican American community inHouston. The community is young, but one of the fastest growing and one of the largest in the country. It also brings with it an interesting display of cultural survival in an extremely urban environment. I have been able to photograph many instances of acculturation, rasquachismo* in order to survive in the urban sprawl of Houston: Charros riding their horses in the middle of downtown Houston, young mariachis playing in local supermarkets, auto detailers using the waiting rooms in shops as after school play rooms for their children, and flower shops turned into after-hours dance-studios as safe havens for young teens. Within each panorama, I am able to present the chaos and order of the Mexican American community in an intimate and approachable presentation.I have also developed experimental 360ºdiptych portraits that present particular leaders of Mexican American culture in Houston. These ‘Leaders of Houston Cultura’ represent and infuse Mexican American and Spanish-speaking culture into the mainstream society of Houston, and I wanted to develop a portrait series that helped capture the leaders and the many spaces they occupy. Each leader also chose the space presented in their portrait as a space that helps define and explain their personality and position within their community.”

*Rasquachismo: creatively dealing with financial, space, and resource limitations