Ariel Mlynarzewicz (1964 - )

Mano a mano (1985)
On Equal Grounds

Etching and aquatint on paper
height: 33cm
width: 25cm

Donated by Ariel Mlynarzewicz 1996


Two renowned figures from Argentine popular culture are depicted in this etching: on the right, unmistakeably, is Carlos Gardel; on the left is Celedonio Flores, one of the most important tango lyricists. It was Flores who wrote the words to “Mano a mano”, a poem converted into a tango song in 1920 by Gardel and José Razzano. Gardel was not only a singer but also composed a lot of tangos as well. He only adapted two of Flores’ poems into tangos that would become well known “Margot” (1920) and “Mano a mano” (1923). Gardel did however sing many other tangos written by Celedonio Flores and composed by other musicians. The poet’s style derived from the working class neighbourhoods blended harmoniously with el Zorzal criollo’s (Translators’ note: Gardel’s nickname derived from the Zorzal a native Argentine songbird) own style. In spite of his international success, Gardel never abandoned his popular singing style born from the poor neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires.

Mlynarzewicz’s artwork, in which the poet and singer are hand in hand, celebrates the artistic bond between the two. Celedonio Flores’s depiction in the etching is more realistic than Gardel’s. The singer’s likeness is a caricature and evokes more of a visual representation of the singer than the singer himself. His iconic sideways smile is disproportionate and his slanted right eye accentuates the desired cliché of Gardel transformed into a stereotype of popular culture. Raúl Santana argues that even though Mlynarzewicz has some intimist etchings he shows a preference for the public in his work, above all, in the arena of urban life. The artist, however, offers up his own vision, his own story of Buenos Aires and its citizens.

“Mano a mano” is one of the most well-known tangos. The lyrics are a man’s reprimand of a former-lover, its words a mixture of sadness and acrimony. The resentful man assures the woman that they are “mano a mano”, which, means that neither owes the other anything, they are even. Mlynarzewicz’s etching seems to play with another meaning of the expression “mano a mano”, (Translators’ note – literal translation is “hand in hand”) referring to the positive outcome of Gardel’s and Flores’ joint work.

Text by Dulce María Dalbosco

Translated by Max Turner and Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning

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