Ernesto Benitez, 1971, was born in the neighborhood of El Canal, a populous marginal city in the municipality of Cerro, in Havana City, Cuba. The town that hosted him during his childhood and adolescence is defined by the local authorities as a highly dangerous area, due to its proverbial violence and social deterioration. There, at the age of 12, he began his artistic studies at the Paulita Concepción Vocational Art School. This is the period of economic splendor of Cuba due to the subsidies received from the extinct Soviet Union, but Ernesto is constantly surrounded by all kinds of signs and vestiges of marginality, deterioration, or moral and social decadence.
n 1986, at the age of 15, Ernesto Benitez took the entrance exams as an aspirant to the medium-high level in his career of Visual Arts, and being selected, he entered the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, specializing in Printmaking. During his studies at the Academy, he shares classes with members and founders of the Arte-Calle Group and participates in the realization of some of the murals painted by the group in different places (Walls) of Havana city during the next four years, among other activities.
In 1990 Ernesto graduated from San Alejandro Fine Art Academy and directly spent two years of mandatory military service in the army. From this dark period of his life, the artist does not usually make biographical references, but he assures that this experience marked a turning point in his life and work, whose discourse becomes, from now on, more political and confrontational.
During his first year at ISA, Ernesto suffered a severe anaphylactic shock that endangered his life, leaving a profound mark on him as an individual, which directly influenced his work as an artist. The scars and memories of this traumatic experience, which brought him to the brink of death, became the foundations of the subsequent shift that can be perceived in his artistic practice – a shift that would forever be intertwined with his life experiences and his vocation for anthropological reflection.
Since then, Ernesto Benítez's artistic proposal explores different ontological paths concerning human existence, constantly pointing to the traps of perception, the fragility of life, the boundary situations, or the ever-present presence of death. In his work, he exposes the different cycles of his life experience as small periods of mutations (constant deaths and rebirths).
His passion for anthropology and philosophy led him to study the history of Western thought, dissecting it through alchemical formulas and processes. He consistently contrasts elements from the history of thought in this hemisphere (philosophy of decadence) in his works, to confront the deceptive ubiquity of the contemporary subject in the 2.0 culture and the ritual paraphernalia of this late modernity, with Eastern practices or Caribbean syncretic practices of spiritual discernment and other non-Western thought trends.