Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's Hard to Know Who to Cheer For Sometimes

Robert Boyd

If I am reading these comments on James Perez's Facebook page correctly, Perez didn't have permission to vandalize the work by Uriel Landeros which he displayed. (You can see examples of the work here. And some background here, here and here.) And now Landeros seems to be mad at him.

Perez announces the fact here:




Later on, Landeros responds.




It's hard to know what's going on here. Not everything is as it seems on the surface. I don't even know if this is the real Uriel Landeros responding (there has been at least one fake Landeros on Facebook already), or if this "conflict" is even real or if it's just a charade to keep people interested. If that's the case, it's working because look at me writing this stupid post about Uriel Landeros and James Perez. Again.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's Time to Short These Links

Robert Boyd


Sarah Thornton will stop writing about art auctions and other rich-people hobbies

I quit! Sarah Thornton, author of the highly entertaining and insightful Seven Days in the Art World has decided to to stop writing about the "art market." Her reasons are:
1. It gives too much exposure to artists who attain high prices.
2. It enables manipulators to publicize the artists whose prices they spike at auction.
3. It never seems to lead to regulation.
4. The most interesting stories are libelous.
5. Oligarchs and dictators are not cool.
6. Writing about the art market is painfully repetitive.
7. People send you unbelievably stupid press releases.
8. It implies that money is the most important thing about art.
9. It amplifies the influence of the art market.
10. The pay is appalling.
She goes into a little detail on each of these reasons, and these reasons seem like a more than adequate justification for walking away from this weird and twisted field. Especially reason 8. But the problem I have with this article is that she implies that the high-end market--the market of Sotheby's and Gagosian Gallery and Art|Basel--is the entire market. It may account for the majority of dollars that changes hands, but not the majority of artworks. There are plenty of small and/or regional galleries they stay afloat selling work that cost a few thousand dollars or less. There are artists who sell work out of their homes that do the same--aren't they part of the market? What about Etsy and 20x200? What about arts and crafts shows like the Bayou City Arts Festival? To me, she was missing some pretty interesting market phenomena by looking solely at the big-money plays. Furthermore, if she changed the word from "market" to "economy," she could discuss the world of money in non-profits--a vastly under-reported field, in my opinion. ["Top 10 reasons NOT to write about the art market" by Sarah Thornton, TAR Magazine, Fall 2012]


Time to short that shit

I quit! (part 2) Not to be outdone, elderly critic Dave Hickey is throwing in the towel, too. As befits his lifetime habit of cranky contrarianism, he throws out a few choice parting barbs.
If it's a matter of buying long and selling short, then the artists he would sell now include Jenny Holzer, Richard Prince and Maurizio Cattelan. "It's time to start shorting some of this shit," he added.
He also believes art consultants have reduced the need for collectors to form opinions. "It used to be that if you stood in front of a painting you didn't understand, you'd have some obligation to guess. Now you don't," he says. "If you stood in front of a Bridget Riley you have to look at it and it would start to do interesting things. Now you wouldn't look at it. You ask a consultant."
Hickey says his change of heart came when he was asked to sign a 10-page contract before he could sit on a panel discussion at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. ["Doyen of American critics turns his back on the 'nasty, stupid' world of modern art" by Edward Helmore and Paul Gallagher, The Guardian, October 27, 2012]
Wasn't it always so? Didn't they value highly works by Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier in the 19th century that crashed instantly on the artist's death. Didn't the rich look to such consultants avant le lettre as Lord Duveen and Bernard Berenson to make their art purchases? Hickey's 71, so why not retire and toss a few barbs at the art world? But he shouldn't pretend like the current state of affairs in this neo-gilded age is anything new.


Josephine Meckseper installation at Elizabeth Dee--a good example of political art that accomplishes nothing

All power to the artists and critics! Political art is on a lot of people's minds, especially since the 2012 Creative Time Summit earlier this month. Stephen Duncombe & Steve Lambert of the Center for Artistic Activism respond with an open letter to critics, giving them advice on how to write about political art. They include some seemingly obvious (yet little-followed) advice, such as:
Does it Work? We don’t mean: does it work aesthetically? but does it work politically. This entails asking more questions. Questions like: What does the artist want to achieve with their work? What change do they see happening through their work? How will this change happen? Who is affected, what affect will the work have on them, and what actions will these people take? ["An open letter to critics writing about political art," Stephen Duncombe & Steve Lambert, October 20, 2012]
I think this is a very good question to ask, especially since as activism, so much political art is utterly ineffectual.  (But they left off one obvious question: "Why is this art?" In other words, why make an artistic project out of a piece of political activism? If you are doing community organizing, for example, why graft "art" onto it?) The problem with this open letter is the problem with so much political art--it hectors and insults the very people it is trying to reach. It basically says, unless you do it this way, you are part of the problem. That's the kind of moralistic message that I find easy to ignore.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

RIP Daniel-Kayne

Robert Boyd
 

Daniel-Kayne in Three Day Fast 

It has been reported on his Facebook page that Houston artist Daniel-Kayne is dead. I don't know any details and it has not been confirmed. As I hear more, I will report what I know. The photo above is from his performance at the Lone Star Performance Explosion, Three Day Fast.

Update: Glasstire is reporting that Kayne's death was a suicide. 


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Texas Contemporary Art Fair is a Texas Fair

Dean Liscum

Whether it's a state fair or a county fair or a contemporary arts fair, in Texas, a fair is a fair. So when I went to that big pole barn on the east side of downtown, I wasn't looking for the best art or even how well the local folks were represented, I was looking for fair fare and with my MeeMaw in tow, I found it.

Right up front they told us like it was, All Sales Final. No swapping (except maybe partners in the VIP lounge), no take backs, and no refunds.


All Sales Final 

At every fair I've ever been to there have been political workers and surveyors who eagerly swoop down on my gullible MeeMaw for a few minutes of her time. This one was no different. Of course, a few minutes of MeeMaw's time was a few minutes of MY time. I doubly resented it because the exploitation of MeeMaw's gullibility was not only eating up my time it was also interfering with my exploitation of her gullibility. Luckily, the Fotofest's Political Bowl Season electronic poll was quick and didn't promise to save anyone's soul ,so it was also free. The vote count was mighty lop-sided for Romney. He had 61 collector votes. Obama only had 147 artist and convention support staff votes and at  a 1:99 ratio, team Obama had a little catching up to do.

 
Brian Piana, Political Bowl Season

For some reason, it ain't a fair without flags. May be it's because most of the peoples walking and gawking and working the booths don't look nothing like the people setting up and serving. They, them that throw fairs, want to reassure everyone that if they got enough money and they want it we will metaphorically wrap it in a flag and slap a price on it.

 
Andrew Schoultz, Made in China (Extreme Melt) and Snake


Skylar Fein, Black Flag for Voltaire (All Murderers are Punished), 2012, acrylic and plaster on wood, 43.5" x 71"

Now, I love me some horses (but not in that Equus kinda way) and so does MeeMaw, so we always gotta swing by the horses. We liked this horse, Ruby, but we thought it could use a little more "meat" on its bones. MeeMaw said it was probably from a fundraiser about abused horses or the artist just ran out of money because bronze is expensive. I told her I didn't think it made out of bronze. She told me to quit back talking and lick it if I doubted her. So I did. Before I could tell her what I discovered, an art fair cop stepped up and asked us not to touch the art. MeeMaw looked him up and down. "You a damn fool." She said and then gave me a look that said do it again or else you will walk your ass to Sugar Land. So I did. "Or LICK the art!" he said and walked away in disgust.

I was little disgusted inside my mouth. The horse was not made of bronze; it was made of rust.

 
Deborah Butterfield, Ruby

Not long after the licking, we stumbled across a beautiful blue horse. While I was thinking about Franz Marc's Large Blue Horse, MeeMaw couldn't quit fingering the stitching on it. Her actions attracted the attention of another art fair cop, but before he could utter a word, she grabbed his pale, thin hand and rubbed it over the stitching. "I haven't felt needle work like that since the 1970s." "You're so right." He chimed in. "I got these plaid pants at Texas Junk and they must be at least 40 years old, but feel the stitching on the inseam." MeeMaw did what the art cop told her to do.


Eric Beltz, Revival Wall

She eventually quit rubbing on the young man's inseam when I promised to find her some quilts or rugs to view. We passed these pictures of automobiles, which I quite like. She said that the paintings were dangerous to impressionable young minds and might influence teenagers to try and imitate those automotive arrangements. Not wanting to get into the perils of arts influence on the impressionable and idiotic, I said, "I think I see the rugs over there."

 
Jeremy Dickinson, Thirteen Rears (with silverside), Twelve Rears (greyhound history), Tramway Station

The rugs were beautiful but not very practical. One was made from packaging tape. MeeMaw was in my face with "What's up with that?" She thought she had me until I simply said, "It's waterproof in case it floods."


Mark Khaisman,Antique Rug 1

MeeMaw then found an even more objectionable piece of art than the "parking dangerously" paintings. It was Eric Beltz word pieces, I welcome the dead into my soul. She exclaimed, "I would not darken the door of a house with that hanging in it." So of course I thought real hard about buying it to hang in my room.

 
Eric Beltz, I welcome the dead into my soul (Revival Wall)

But I couldn't afford it, so we wandered on.

Not to get too OED-deep into the meaning of the word fair, but a fair is market is a garage sale without a garage. The phrase quilt had kick-started MeeMaw's appetite for consumption. When she saw Rice University's booth, she gasped, "Ahhhh! You didn't have to. Gewgaws for MeeMaw." But after 30 seconds of scanning the merchandise, I could she her ambivalence set in. She was thrilled she could afford something at the prestigious art fair. However, she just wasn't sure why she would want to buy what she could afford.


Rice University Gallery 

Elsewheres there were some mighty fine teeth. "Organic gewgaws" with fine stitching, which MeeMaw said that she would have bought for Uncle Buck if she liked him more.



MeeMaw had to shake the dew off her lily, so I took that opportunity to find the holy grail of every fair: the games and the side shows.

I stumbled upon this one game. At first I thought it was a take-off on the build-a-bear theme only for the art fair kid crowd (age 20 to 40, with trust fund attached) of oil barons from Baytown. Wrong. Next, I guessed it was a game in which the object was to knock the crap off the top of these deer heads and win a prize. Problem was I couldn't find a gun or a ball or dart to throw at them. Sans equipment, I was just about to just walk up and bitch slap one of those colorful palm fronds off when one of the booth workers told me the price. Damn! Was I surprised to learn that it was one of those VIP games that cost more than I could get for MeeMaw's Buick LeSabre.


Contemporary Deer 

Disappointed, I walked over to see what was all the fuss at the Glasstire bar. From the excitement, you'd have thought they were giving away spray-paint damaged Picassos. When I got closer, I realized it was just the art world's version of "touch my lizard" for people in business attire. Never have I seen such finely clothed people holding lizards. Only they was using alligators with their mouths taped shut instead of lizards, but it's the same thing unless of course you happen to be the lizard.



I like to touch lizards as much as the next art fair patron. Nevertheless, I passed. I didn't want to have to explain to MeeMaw why I was caressing a crocodile and how that was art or in any way, shape or form related to art. I sidled up to the bar to bar to hob knob with a celebrity du heure. It must have been shift change because no one was there except Bill Davenport. Although he's whip smart and all he don't have any gold teeth or date a Kardashian, so in MeeMaw's book, he don't count.



Time was running out, so I headed straight for the side show section of the art fair. None of the maps or signage pointed to it and they didn't have a crier, but when I turned the corner, there was no doubt in my mind that I had hit the art fair side show. Behold! photos of Basquiat, breasts, and blind folds.


Basquiat photo orgy 


Blind Folds and Breasts 

I stood around ogling the three until a booth worker asked me to quit fogging up the glass on the Basquiat or he'd have me removed from the fair. As I was leaving, a woman approached me and offered to show me what I wanted to see if I'd meet her by the water fountains.

Let me just say art fair types frown on running through their hallowed halls yelling "whoopee!"

I was elated until I got to the water fountains. There wasn't just one water fountain. There were 6, each for separate ethnicity: Muslim, Latin American, African American, Native American, White, Asian American. I was in a conundrum. I wasn't sure which ethnicity she was. Furthermore, I wasn't sure which one I was. After all, my ancestors where sluts. I look white but if those water fountains collect your saliva and then run it through one of those CSI machines, I might be accused of going to the wrong fountain. I waited. I wavered, but finally I wandered off in dismay.

The last thing I needed was MeeMaw to find me at the wrong water fountain with the right girl.

 
Travis Somerville, Well Division
  
Travis Somerville, Well Division

  
Travis Somerville, Well Division

  
Travis Somerville, Well Division

MeeMaw found me staring at some white guy quenching himself at the fountains. "You been staring at him the whole time? It's time to go."

Now it ain't a fair and it ain't over until someone propositions you in the parking lot. As we was walking toward our car, this gawky guy in a white PAN ARTS FAIR t-shirt comes over, blocks my MeeMaws path and says. "Psst. You wanna go to real art fair?"

"We've just come from one. Cost my grandson and famous art blogger $40 a ticket."

He looked at us. "You was robbed. See that building. It's the Embassy Suites. In Room 307 is the Pan Arts Fair. That's a real art fair."

"You mean a whole art fair in one room?" MeeMaw said skeptically.
"Totally. They've even got art in the drawers."
"I'm sure they've got all kinds of MIRACLES in their drawers. And as far as we're concerned, they can keep them there!"

She pushed the young man a side and made a beeline for the car.

But later that evening, I overheard her telling her friend Mabel on sky, "if I didn't have that brat with me, I just might went to look in those drawers."

May be next time MeeMaw. May be next time.


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Beauty Just Doesn't Cut It

Robert Boyd


Forrest Prince, Attention Artist, 2012, wood, glass, vinyl lettering

Attention Artist by Forrest Prince is on view at the Station Museum exhibit [Hx8], which opened last night. I think this piece could pretty much serve as the mission statement for the Station Museum.  Kind of puts all those artists who want to create beauty or express personal feeling or play with ideas in their place. Quit wasting everyone's time, you slackers!


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New Orleans Coda

Robert Boyd

When I wrote about the art I saw in New Orleans, I left out one striking piece because I couldn't identify it. It was in a doorway on Royal Street in the French Quarter. It was right next to the Shop, which I wrote about in my previous post. I asked the owner what it was, and he said that he thought it had been done by some conceptual artist named "Janna Morgan."


The mystery installation on Royal Street

The piece definitely drew my attention--at first with the irregular pattern of black shapes. I could see right away that they were negative images of newspaper clippings. Closer examination determined that they were all obituaries. I thought of The Boundary of Life is Quietly Crossed by Dario Robleto, another piece comprised of obituaries. But this piece seemed more ragged and urgent and less elegiac than Robleto's stately meditation of age.

So I Googled "Janna Morgan" in every iteration I could think of. The closest I could find was a New Orleans artist named Jana Napoli, whose work looked like it could include something like this, even though I found nothing on her website about this particular piece. So I emailed her and asked her if it was hers.

A few days later, I got an email from an artist named Jan Gilbert. She was the one who made the piece. I liked how a misheard name lead to an email to the wrong person who nonetheless got it to the right person. I like to think this indicates a tight-knit artistic scene in New Orleans. But actually, it mainly indicates how lucky I was. Jana Napoli is Jan Gilbert's studio mate, and the two have collaborated on projects.

Here is how the work, A Call to Disarm, was described in Gilbert's press release:
Jan Gilbert’s site-specific installation for the building’s vestibule, also springs from the act of collecting, in this case obituaries of New Orleans gunshot victims, and the culture of commemorative t-shirts which has arisen to honor those lost to violence.  Gilbert says: “I was traveling in a group with a young man.  His brother had been buried the day before - one of the many lost by gunshot on the street.  When I returned home, I found and tore out the obituary in an insignificant gesture of commemoration and placed it next to my bed.  The next day there was another lost soul torn from the pages, and then another, and another. Hundreds later, the stack is staggering.  The TIMES PICAYUNE, since Katrina, no longer details ‘by gunshot’ in its obits.” 
By placing these obituaries in a backlit curtain that could be seen from the street, Gilbert hoped that people would have chance encounters with the work. Royal Street is a heavily pedestrian block, and as its in the French Quarter, many of the pedestrians are from out of town. If they stop and read a little, they will see a different New Orleans from the louche vacation spot they've come to enjoy. I'm sure the local Chamber of Commerce loves that. But its no secret that New Orleans is a place where people settle things with guns.



Jan Gilbert, A Call to Disarm, 2011

This work was done as a satellite work for Prospect.2. Prospect New Orleans is the biennial art festival that has been a real bright spot in the New Orleans art scene. I had heard good things about it, but what really made me sit up and notice was what what Tony Fitzpatrick wrote:
New Orleans’ art scene has been on the rise since the success of Prospect:1, the New Orleans Biennial, which New York curator Dan Cameron opened three years after Katrina hit the gulf coast with about 30 times the force of the atom bomb.

Unlike other biennials in the world, Prospect:1 had no centralized “Pavilion.” Instead, the whole city of New Orleans was used. From the Lower Ninth Ward to St. Bernard, Jefferson, Faubourg Marigny, East Lakeview and Gentilly to the Bywater, every neighborhood was included, and it was a brilliant strategy. Cameron knew that anyone covering New Orleans' first biennial would have to traverse the whole city, and take measure of New Orleans while it recovered from disaster, dispossession and furious loss. They would also see a culture of no surrender and fierce pride.
In short, by taking measure of the city and its art, in its totality, even the most callous of critics would be seduced by the charming knot of contradictions that New Orleans is. ["Lost Angel" by Tony Fitzpatrick, March 23, 2012, No.9]
I will definitely be there for Prospect.3--and more. Gilbert recommended the Contemporary Art Center, which looks pretty interesting. And I missed the St. Claude Arts District altogether when I visited. An art scene apparently existed in this area before Katrina, but post Katrina it really expanded.
[Paul] Chan's activism was part of a diverse convergence of influences that helped set the stage for launching the leading St. Claude co-op galleries, some founding members of which had also been recipients of studio residency grants from New York's Lower Manhattan Cultural Council from November, 2005 to May, 2006, part of a wave of interest in local art and artists on the part of national foundations that continues to this day. Such experiences provided local artists with inspiring examples of how intelligently run non-profit arts institutions can make a significant difference through meaningful community engagement.

By 2008, the three most high profile co-op or collective galleries  were all up and running. All three are on St. Claude and all are broadly representative of the district. The first to open was the the Good Children Gallery, which was inspired by the original name for St. Claude Avenue--“Rue des Bons Enfants”--colloquially translated as “Good Children Street,” followed by the Antenna Gallery, part of the Press Street Literary and Visual Arts Collective, followed by The Front. ["The St. Claude Arts District: A Brief History," D. Eric Bookhardt, New Orleans Art Insider, September 30, 2012]
This is an excerpt from a very long post about the history of the St. Claude Arts District from just before Katrina until now. New Orleans Art Insider is one of two very good art blogs in town. The other is Constance, which is the blog arm of a design company. Both of these blogs are excellent, and when you consider how small New Orleans is compared to Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio, it's astonishing that there is so much blogging activity.

I guess all this is another way of saying how little I saw last time I was in New Orleans. It makes me want to return as soon as possible to see some more.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hiding Out with Skeez187 and TKNY

Robert Boyd

If you went to Uriel Landeros's dreadful exhibit Friday night, you at least had the opportunity to look in on Escondido, an exhibit by Skeez187 (aka Skeezer Stinkfist) and TKNY at Chuntaro Jones Studio. Their work was a pleasant contrast. Skeez187 was displaying a group of masks made of Sculpey. The masks were in identical black display boxes, arranged in a line across the back wall of the studio.

installation view

The Sculpey allowed Skeez187 to play with very modern artificially bright colors while recalling Meso-American sources.


 Skeez187, Amor/Love, Sculpey

 
Skeez187, Flores/Flowers, Sculpey


 Skeez187, Selva/Jungle, Sculpey

The color is only part of the appeal (some of the masks are shades of grey or all black, and they're excellent, too). The way he incorporates Halloween mask teeth in each mask is unnerving--they look somewhat real, which makes the masks seem more like faces. (And this makes me think of Eduardo Galeano's Faces & Masks, a collage retelling of the history of Latin America from 1700 to 1900. As Galeano portrays it, this is a period where Latin America puts on a European mask. It is the middle volume of his Memories of Fire trilogy.) And the curling arabesque sculptural shapes with which Skeez187 constructs the form of the mask are an important and beautiful element of the whole.

TKNY's work betrays perhaps a little too much influence of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. But as long as you willing to live with its similarities to those street-art influenced 80s art stars, it's nice to look at.

 
TKNY, The Carnival of Power

But TKNY's room-sized installation, despite its obvious debt to Keith Haring, was the star of the show. The bold white against black linework covering every inch of the two walls helped make this a powerful visual experience.

 
TKNY room installation

This is doodle art writ large. But TKNY has such a mastery of his materials within his deliberately limited means of expression (uniform white lines on a black wall) that I felt quite energized being in its presence. Sure, it shows a lot of Keith Haring, but it ends up coming across as a highly personal and quite powerful piece of art.


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The Uriel Landeros Exhibit Was a Crashing Bore (NSFW)

Robert Boyd




These guys must have been expecting so much more. But the "Houston, we have a problem..." exhibit at James Perez Art Gallery, by alleged Picasso vandal Uriel Landeros, was a damp squib, despite being breathlessly promoted as the scandal du jour by The Houston Chronicle and the Associated Press. If you went hoping for something to equal the artistic outrages of the past--the riots at Futurist serates, the opening of Le Sacre du Printemps, etc.--this was nothing. Claire Bishop describes a Futurist serate so:
In its Futurist iteration, this [audience] participation became directly antagonistic, with performers and audience making direct attacks on one another. [...] a member of the audience at the Teatro Verdi, Florence, on 12 December 1913, [...] gave Marinetti a pistol and invited him to commit suicide on stage. [Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, 2012]
The Marinetti of this show, James Perez, tried his best to gin up scandal through a series of provocative statements on FaceBook. But while I was there, no one rose to his bait. (A friend who was there later described the scene as sparse and boring, so it doesn't seem as if things improved after I left.) Part of the problem is that the cowardly Landeros wasn't there. He was Skyping from another location, supposedly Mexico. The great revolutionary artist's most notable act in this whole fiasco was in running away. The shades of Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi and Martin Luther King don't know whether to laugh or cry. So any audience members who might have handed him a pistol or just punched his punk face in were left with nothing more than his smug visage projected on the wall and a load of shitty artwork.

 
The great revolutionary artist speaks



And Landeros's art, alas, is inept, derivative and juvenile. Its attempts to shock are utterly feeble and passé. It comes across as completely ersatz, faintly echoing superior artists who outraged (and challenged) public sensibilities--artists that I serious doubt Landeros has ever heard of. If he had, he would have been ashamed to show second-rate students work publicly.

 
Uriel Landeros, Ass Rape

 
Uriel Landeros, Transexual Blowjob


Uriel Landeros, Fuck Art

I liked the title of this one because his whole show--indeed his entire existence--is a big "fuck you" to art. But he is no Duchamp. He doesn't have the intellect. This is the work of tantrum, of a child screaming "look at me!!" He doesn't even seem dimly aware of what a clown he is. He takes himself seriously, which makes the work all the more ridiculous.

 
Uriel Landeros, Glory Hole

But he is far more risible when he tries to express something, some emotion or thought. These paintings display all the sensitivity of a wooden leg.


Uriel Landeros, Tears of Gold


 
Uriel Landeros, The Artists Ego

It may be too much to ask, but I hope this is the last we hear of Urial Landeros. But I would be pleased if he has the courage of his stated convictions and turns himself in. If his action spray-painting the Picasso was indeed a political statement--I'm dubious--then he should accept the consequences. That is something I would applaud.

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