Growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, there was always a tango being played on the radio. From stock phrases to pieces of wisdom from our parents, my friends and I could not escape learning the lyrics of dozens of tangos.
As teenagers, we saw this music as a symbol of older generations, something to run away from. None of us had any interest in learning to dance to stories that spoke of jilted lovers and unrealized dreams, and were repelled by the constant mention of the good old days, the message that happiness was always in the past.
Not surprisingly, most of us now feel that this music is a key part of our heritage. My father, a serious tango lover who constantly challenged those present to name the title and composer of every tango being played on the radio, would be shocked to see me singing along while I paint to his beloved music.
In the 1960's Astor Piazzolla revolutionized tango, introducing fugues, counterpoint, and other Western classical music ideas. This radical departure from tradition produced a deep rift in the community, causing heated discussions between the traditionalists and the partisans of what was then dubbed the new tango. The conflict was so intense that Piazzolla himself received multiple death threats and was beaten by crazed old guard goons.
One of his most famous pieces is titled "Balada para un loco", loosely translated as “Ballad for a loon”. The lyrics follow a lovable eccentric, not seen by sane people, as he walks, runs, and floats over the streets of Buenos Aires.
This tango inspired the works in the series “Las callecitas de Buenos Aires” (Buenos Aires’s little side streets),which has expanded to incorporate “Las Plazas(Parks) de Buenos Aires” “Las Estaciones(Seasons) de Buenos Aires”; “Las Orillas(Waterfronts) de Buenos Aires”; and “Los Monumentos(Monuments) of Buenos Aires”.
These urban markers are an emotional map whose sites evoke key memories: how the sun was reflected off the windows of “Cafe La Paz” on “Avenida Corrientes”, where my friends made a single espresso last 4 hours while talking about everything and nothing; the banter of the merchants at the open air market on “ Calle Charcas”, the boulevard where the white tents of what looked like hundreds of vendors displayed every food item imaginable; the powerful glow from the marquees on “Calle Lavalle”, the street with 6 or 7 movie theaters on each side for blocks on end, where my Dad and I would spend whole afternoons zigzagging to take 3 movies in.
The abstracted shapes in these series are my attempt to convey the memories brought up by this historical map of my emotional development.