Posts Tagged ‘ARTIST ROOMS

13
Oct
17

Exhibition: ‘Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933’ at Tate Liverpool

Exhibition dates: 23rd June – 15th October 2017

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha' 1925-6, printed 1991

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha
1925-6, printed 1991
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
205 x 241 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Hugo Erfurth with Dog' 1926

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Hugo Erfurth with Dog (Bildnis des Fotografen Hugo Erfurth mit Hund) 
1926
Tempera and oil paint on panel
800 x 1000 mm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
© DACS 2017. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

 

Writing sociology: picturing an uncertain cultural landscape

There is something completely unexpected in the strange correlation and synergy between the work of these two artists.

While it is inadvisable to compare and contrast (why pick those particular images out of thousands!), I have paired several images from the exhibition together in this posting. Let’s look at the pairing above.

Technically, Sander’s photograph of The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha (1925-6) evidences a slightly flattened perspective especially in the “face on” aspect of the androgynous woman – but the photograph also possesses a surreal air, the silhouette of the woman’s hair contrasting with the swept back slickness of the man and his jutting, three-quarter profile. The unusual space between them adds admirably to the overall frisson of the photograph, it’s non/objectivity and performativity. In Dix’s painting Hugo Erfurth with Dog (1926) a greater distortion of perspective is in evidence. The mythic dog is painted as if photographed using a telephoto lens, while the man’s face is all over the place… the jaw elongated as if by using a wide angle lens, the front of the face flattened in an earnest manner. This is what painting can do, and is allowed to do, that photography can never match. But it doesn’t have to. It does it in a different way.

Here we need to excavate – that’s a good word for this investigation – we need to excavate the ethos in the zeitgeist. We need to understand the attitudes and aspirations of the cultural era in which these artists lived in order to comprehend the defining spirit of the period, as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. These artists emerge out of the same society, they inhabit the spirit of the age – those interwar years of the avant-garde, speed, and change; of poverty, postwar realities and politics; of The Great Depression, disfiguration and disenfranchisement.

I look at the obscurity of faces in Dix’s Assault Troops Advance under Gas (1924) and then adjust to the pensiveness of hand, pose and gaze in Sander’s Working Students (1926) … and then mentally add in Avedon’s later portraiture. Interesting. I look at Sander’s National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture (c. 1938) and note the “exemplary mastery of illumination”, but just as distinctively the averted gaze, the line on head where the unnamed man (who is he? what was his name?) had just taken his cap off. Just below is Dix’s Self-Portrait with Easel (1926) with three-quarter profile, piercing stare, bent finger. Who is capturing reality here? No body.

In his own way, Sander plays with the reality of time and space just as much as Dix. In my mind, Sander’s “staged performativity and the artifice of construction [which] is paramount to the surreal effects created,” are no less un/real than the paintings of Dix. There are things that just don’t fit. The strangeness of the era, the creation of these non/objective environments, cause an alignment of the stars between both artists. This is inspired curating, to bring these two extra-ordinary talents together.

These artists walked the same streets, they breathed the same air. They excavated the spirit of the age. And in so doing, their art becomes impervious to time.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Tate Liverpool for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“We want to see things completely naked, clear, almost without art. I invented the New Objectivity.”

.
Otto Dix, 1965

 

German artist Otto Dix was a committed painter of portraits. At a time when photography had diminished portraiture’s importance and the genre was seen as a deeply unfashionable pursuit for so-called serious artists, he was making a living – and cementing his reputation – out of exactly that. He commented:

“Painting portraits is regarded by modernist artists as a lower artistic occupation; and yet it is one of the most exciting and difficult tasks for a painter.”

 

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin' 1927

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin (Liegende auf Leopardenfell) 
1927
Oil paint on panel
680 x 980 mm
© DACS 2017. Collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. Gift of Samuel A. Berger

 

 

Dix was a key supporter of the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) movement, a name coined after an exhibition held in Mannheim, Germany in 1925. Described by art historian G.F. Hartlaub, as ‘new realism bearing a socialist flavour’, the movement sought to depict the social and political realities of the Weimar Republic.

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Bohemians [Willi Bongard, Gottfried Brockmann]' c. 1922-5, printed 1990

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Bohemians [Willi Bongard, Gottfried Brockmann]
c. 1922-5, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
189 x 250 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Tate Liverpool presents the faces of Germany between the two World Wars seen through the eyes of painter Otto Dix (1891-1969) and photographer August Sander (1876-1964). Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933 brings together two artists whose works document the glamour and misery of the Weimar Republic, a time of radical extremes and political and economic upheaval.

Portraying a Nation, which exhibits Dix and Sander as a pair for the first time, reflects a pivotal point in Germany’s history, as it introduced democratic rule in the aftermath of the First World War. The period was one of experimentation and innovation across the visual arts, during which both artists were concerned with representing the extremes of society, from the flourishing cabaret culture to intense poverty and civilian rebellions.

Featuring more than 300 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs, Portraying a Nation unites two complementary exhibitions. Otto Dix: The Evil Eye explores Dix’s harshly realistic depictions of German society and the brutality of war, while ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander presents photographs from Sander’s best known series People of the Twentieth Century, from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art.

The exhibition focusses on the evolution of Dix’s work during his years in Düsseldorf, from 1922 to 1925, when he became one of the foremost New Objectivity painters, a movement exploring a new style of artistic representation following the First World War. Dix’s paintings are vitriolic reflections on German society, commenting on the country’s stark divisions. His work represents the people who made up these contradictions in society with highlights including Portrait of the Photographer Hugo Erfurth with Dog 1923, Self-Portrait with Easel 1926, as well as a large group of lesser known watercolours. Dix’s The War 1924 will also form a key element of the exhibition, a series of 50 etchings made as a reaction to and representation of the profound effect of his personal experiences of fighting in the First World War.

Sander’s photographs also observe a cross-section of society to present a collective portrait of a nation. Sander commenced his major photographic project People of the Twentieth Century in 1910, an ambitious task that occupied him until the 1950s. The project resulted in more than 600 images in which people were categorised into what he described as ‘types’, including artists, musicians, circus workers, farmers and, in the late 1930s, images of Nazi officers. More than 140 photographs from the ARTIST ROOMS collection will be displayed to create a large-scale timeline of Weimar Germany, placing individual subjects against a backdrop of the era’s tumultuous cultural and political history.

Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933 is made up of Otto Dix: The Evil Eye, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf and ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander, an exhibition of works from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art.

The ARTIST ROOMS collection is jointly owned by National Galleries of Scotland and Tate on behalf of the public, and was established through The d’Offay donation in 2008 with the assistance of the Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund and the Scottish and British governments. It is shared with UK museums and galleries including Tate, National Galleries of Scotland and a network of Associate venues through ARTIST ROOMS On Tour, which is a partnership until 2019 with lead Associate Ferens Art Gallery, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Art Fund and the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.

Otto Dix: The Evil Eye is curated by Dr Susanne Meyer-Büser, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director and Lauren Barnes, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool. ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander is curated by Francesco Manacorda, and Lauren Barnes, Assistant Curator, with the cooperation of ARTIST ROOMS and the German Historical Institute.

Press release from Tate Liverpool

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor) '1924

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor)
1924
© DACS 2017
Image: Otto Dix Stiftung

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Working Students' 1926, printed 1990

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Working Students
1926, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Seen together, Sander’s images form a pictorial mosaic of inter-war Germany. Rapid social change and newfound freedom were accompanied by financial insecurity and social and political unrest. By photographing the citizens of the Weimar Republic – from the artistic, bohemian elite to the Nazis and those they persecuted – Sander’s photographs tell of an uncertain cultural landscape. It is a world characterised by explosions of creativity, hyperinflation and political turmoil. The faces of those he photographed show traces of this collective historical experience. Alfred Döblin, author of the 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz said:

“Sander has succeeded in writing sociology not by writing, but by producing photographs – photographs of faces and not mere costumes.”

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Argentinian Venomous Scorpion' 1922

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Argentinian Venomous Scorpion (Argentinischer Gift-Skorpion) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
134 x 217 mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

 

Dix served in the First World War from 1915, fighting on the Western front in the Battle of the Somme. Although an enthusiastic soldier – his service earned him the Iron Cross (Second Class) – Dix’s experiences affected him deeply. He marked the war’s 10th anniversary with a group of etchings entitled Der Krieg (The War), leaving few of the horrors of the front line to the imagination. Commenting later, he said:

“For years, [I] constantly had these dreams in which I was forced to crawl through destroyed buildings, through corridors through which I couldn’t pass. The rubble was always there in my dreams.”

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Butterfly' 1922

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Butterfly (Schmetterling) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135 mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Giant Snake' 1922

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Giant Snake (Riesenschlange) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
135 x 217 mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Mask Fish' 1922

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Mask Fish (Maskenfisch) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135 mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Tibetan Turkey Vulture' 1922

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Tibetan Turkey Vulture (Tibetanischer Truthahngeier) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
135 x 217 mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Vulture Skull' 1922

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Vulture Skull (Totenkopfgeier)
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135 mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture' c. 1938, printed 1990

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture
c. 1938, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 192 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Self-Portrait with Easel' 1926

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Self-Portrait with Easel (Selbstbildnis mit Staffelei)
1926
800 x 550 mm
Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum, Düren
© DACS 2017. Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum Düren. Photo: Peter Hinschläger

 

 

From the early 1920s, he devoted himself to the study of old master painting techniques, using a layering effect, produced first with egg tempera and, later, finished with oils. This moved his contemporary George Grosz to jokingly call him ‘Otto Hans Baldung Dix’ (after the German old master Hans Baldung Grien). Later, Grosz would write:

“Dix did all the drawing in a thin tempera, then went over it with thin mastic glazes in various cold and warm tones. He was the only Old Master I ever watched using this technique.”

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Secretary at West German Radio in Cologne' 1931, printed 1992

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Secretary at West German Radio in Cologne
1931, printed 1992
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 149 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix. 'The Jeweller Karl Krall (Der Juwelier Karl Krall)' 1923

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Portrait of the Jeweller Karl Krall
1923
Kunst- und Museumsverein im Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal
Photo: Antje Zeis-Loi, Medienzentrum Wuppertal
© DACS 2017

 

 

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Dix was dismissed from his professorship teaching art at the Dresden Academy, where he had worked since 1927. The reason given was that, through his painting, he had committed a ‘violation of the moral sensibilities and subversion of the militant spirit of the German people’.

In the years following, some 260 of his works were confiscated by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. Several of these works, including The Jeweller Karl Krall 1923 (which features in the Tate Liverpool exhibition Portraying a Nation), appeared in the Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) exhibition of 1937-8. The exhibition was staged by the Nazis to destroy the careers of those artists they considered mentally ill, inappropriate or unpatriotic.

 

August Sander. 'Victim of Persecution' 1938, printed 1990 by August Sander 1876-1964

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Victim of Persecution
c. 1938, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

In the mid-1920s, Sander began his highly ambitious project People of the 20th Century. In it, Sander aimed to document Germany by taking portraits of people from all segments of society. The project adapted and evolved continuously, falling into seven distinct groups: ‘The Farmer’, ‘The Skilled Tradesman’, ‘The Woman’, ‘Classes and Professions’, ‘The Artists’, ‘The City’ and ‘The Last People’. Sander once said ‘The portrait is your mirror. It’s you’. He believed that, through photography, he could reveal the characteristic traits of people. He used these images to tell each person’s story; their profession, politics, social situation and background.

Sander did not use the newly invented Leica camera. Instead he remained devoted to an old-fashioned large-format camera, glass negatives and long exposure times. This allowed him to capture minute details of individual faces. Sander prized the daguerreotype, a photographic process introduced in the previous century, of which he said: ‘it cannot be surpassed in the delicacy of the delineation, it is objectivity in the best sense of the word’. Allied to this, his portraits were anonymous. Shot against neutral backgrounds and titled more often than not by profession alone, he let the images – and the faces in them – speak for themselves.

The ambition and reach of People of the 20th Century (both in terms of the quality of his photography and in his representation of a cross-section of society) made him a monumental figure of twentieth century photography. The likes of American social realist photographers such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange (whose works became iconic symbols of the depression), and later photographers such as Diane Arbus, each owe a debt to the trailblazing Sander. More recently, the work of conceptual artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher (known for their typologies of industrial buildings and structures) and Rineke Dijkstra, whose photography is infused with psychological depth and social awareness, resonates with the influence of August Sander’s career-long project.

Text from the Tate Liverpool website

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Turkish Mousetrap Salesman' 1924-30, printed 1990

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Turkish Mousetrap Salesman
1924-30, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 191 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Photographer [August Sander]' 1925, printed 1990

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Photographer [August Sander]
1925, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Tate Liverpool
Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront,
Liverpool L3 4BB

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Tate Liverpool website

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26
Jul
09

Exhibition: ‘Beuys is Here; Sculpture Object Action Revolution’ at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, England

Exhibition dates: 4th July – 27th September 2009

 

All photographs are of work in the exhibition. Many thankx to the De La Warr Pavilion for allowing me to publish the photographs and art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Untitled (Sun State)' 1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Untitled (Sun State)
1974
Chalk and felt-tip pen on blackboard with wood frame
47 1/2 x 71 1/8″ (120.7 x 180.7 cm)

 

Joseph Beuys. 'I like America and America likes me' action 1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
I like America and America likes me action
1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) Überwindet endlich die Parteiendiktatur - Poster, N070815SE_118_098 - Overcome Party Dictatorship Now 1971

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Überwindet endlich die Parteiendiktatur – Poster, N070815SE_118_098 – Overcome Party Dictatorship Now
1971
Print on paper
278 x 395 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-86) is widely recognised as one of the most influential and extraordinary artists of the twentieth century.
 Artist, educator, political and social activist, Beuys’s philosophy  proposed the healing power and social function of art, in which everyone can participate and benefit. The works in this exhibition provide an opportunity to experience this expanded concept of art as he understood it. Collectively, the exhibition presents the ‘constellation of ideas’ central to Beuys’s practice, revealing his ideas on zoology, ecology, homeopathy, economics, politics, social activism, teaching and learning. Beuys incorporated into his work various materials such as felt, fat and metal, selected because of their inherent properties such as insulation, conduction and protection which all have associations with Beuys’s ideas.

The exhibition is largely selected from the ARTIST ROOMS collection and brings together well-known sculptures, drawings, vitrines and a remarkable selection of posters recalling live actions and events. Works include Fat Chair (1964-85) and, in Gallery 2, a single major work Scala Napoletana (1985) is shown for the first time in the UK. In addition nearly twenty notable multiples are included within the exhibition selected from National Galleries of Scotland. The multiple was a form of communication for Beuys – a means by which he could share and distribute his ideas beyond the confines of the artworld.

Text from the De La Warr Pavilion website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Fettstuhl (Fat Chair)' 1964-85

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Fettstuhl (Fat Chair)
1964-85
Wood, glass, metal, fabric, paint, fat and thermometer
1830 x 1550 x 640 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Entwurf für ein Filzenvironment [Model for a Felt Environment]' 1964

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Entwurf für ein Filzenvironment (Model for a Felt Environment)
1964
Wood, glass, felt, oil paint and lead
1840 x 1680 x 840 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The neat rolls of grey felt on painted wood inside this vitrine are intended as a model for an ‘environment’. Felt insulates and absorbs, representing protection but also a sense of constriction, like being suffocated. The same type of felt rolls are seen in the ‘environment’ Plight (1958/1985), now in the Pompidou Centre, in which the walls and ceiling are covered with felt to create a stifling atmosphere. Beuys used felt in an infamous ‘action’ performed the same year this model was made. The Chief saw the artist being wrapped in a felt blanket, fighting claustrophobia to lie practically still, as if in a coffin, for a nine-hour period.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Fettecke (Prozess) [Fat Corner (Process)]' 1968

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Fettecke (Prozess) (Fat Corner (Process))
1968
Wood, glass, 2 cardboard boxes and fat
1835 x 1680 x 840 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Looking inside the two boxes in this vitrine, we can see that in one, the fat has been neatly shaped into the corner to make a wedge. In the other, the shape of the fat has a disturbing biological look to it, like inner organs which have been unceremoniously dumped in a heap. Beuys used triangles of fat in both his sculptures and ‘actions’. From around 1963, he would use wedges of fat or felt to mark the boundaries of a space when performing an ‘action’.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Langhaus (Vitrine)' 1953-1962

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Langhaus (Vitrine)
1953-1962
Wood, glass, felt, oil paint and paper
1830 x 1545 x 640 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Langhaus can be variously translated as ‘nave’ such as one finds in a church, or ‘longhouse’, such as the dwelling house for one or several families found in early north European regions or, still today, in tribal communities in the Amazon region or the South Seas. The block of wood has a small piece of felt attached to the top, suggesting, according to Beuys’s usual iconography, the idea of protection, a connotation strengthened by the length of felt also lying in the vitrine. The walking stick lying alongside the felt is a traditional Beuysian symbol for leadership and protection, much as a shepherd looks after his flock.

 

 

Beuys is recognised as one of the most influential artists of the late twentieth century. Adopting the roles of political and social activist and educator, his philosophy proposed the healing power and social function of art for all.

From the 1950s onwards, many of his works are made from a distinctive group of materials, in particular felt, fat and copper. These were chosen for their insulating, conductive, protective, transmitting and transforming properties. Animals of all kinds appear in his work, but he was particularly drawn to stags, bees and hares. A childhood interest in the natural sciences remained with him throughout his life, fuelling a desire to explore themes and experiment with the properties of materials.

Beuys produced a vast body of work that includes performance, drawing, print-making, sculpture and installation. His complex, interlocking themes cover science, myth, history, medicine and energy. Beuys’ own image and life story is inextricably linked to his work through his persona of the Shaman, shepherd or stag-leader.

This group of works covers forty years of Beuys’s career. Included are nature-based drawings of the 1950s, images and scores recording 1960s ‘actions’ and later installations, in addition to sculptures and vitrines. The collection brings together drawings with sculpture from the 1960s like the iconic Fat Chair, and images relating to Actions and installations like Coyote and Show Your Wound. It culminates with the sculpture Scala Napoletana which was made only a few months before the artist’s death, and relates to the theme of communication with the beyond.”

Text from the National Galleries of Scotland website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Joseph Beuys with 'Rose for Direct Democracy' 1973

 

Joseph Beuys with Rose for Direct Democracy
1973

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Pregnant Woman with Swan' 1959

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Schwangere und Schwan (Pregnant Woman with Swan)
1959
Oil paint and watercolour on paper
276 x 214 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The tiny swan in this painting looks as if it is swimming serenely inside the woman, replacing the foetus inside her pregnant body. The drawing combines male and female elements, with the phallic nature of the swan’s neck. Beuys had been fascinated with swans since childhood. A sculpture of a large golden swan sat on top of the tower of Schwanenburg castle (Swan Castle) in his home town of Cleves, and was visible from his bedroom window while he was growing up. With his interest in language, the artist would also have delighted in the similarity between the German words for pregnant woman (Schwangere) and swan (Schwan).

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Felt Suit' 1970

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Felt Suit
1970
Felt and wood
1660 x 660 x 260 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Beuys began producing works in multiples in the 1960s, partly as a way to combat the elitism of the art world. This is probably his most famous multiple. It has its origins in the performance Action the Dead Mouse/Isolation Unit of 1970, where Beuys wore a felt suit with lengthened arms and legs, like the one seen here. He described the suit as an extension of the sculptures he made with felt, where the material’s insulating properties were integral to the meaning of the work. Beuys intended this concept of warmth to extend beyond the material to encompass what he described as ‘spiritual warmth or the beginning of an evolution’.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Stark beleuchteter Hirschstuhl (Brightly-Lit Stag Chair)' 1957-1971

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Stark beleuchteter Hirschstuhl (Brightly-Lit Stag Chair)
1957-1971
2 works on paper, oil paint, graphite and masking tape
1390 x 963 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Although Beuys began this collage in 1957, it was not finished until 1971. The chair is similar to the subject of the artist’s 1972 sculpture Backrest for a fine-limbed person (Hare-type) of the 20th Century A.D. This is a cast iron impression of a child’s plaster corset, made as a multiple. However, the striding feet of the chair in this collage give it a human aspect, making it seem almost confident and self-possessed. The curved back of the chair is echoed in the lightbulb shape at the top of the image. The stag, in Beuys’s bestiary, guided the soul in its journey to the afterlife.

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Passage der Zukunftplanetoiden' (Hearts of the Revolutionaries: Passage of the Planets of the Future) 1955

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Passage der Zukunftplanetoiden (Hearts of the Revolutionaries: Passage of the Planets of the Future)
1955
Watercolour on card
295 x 490 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The choice of red for this painting would seem like an obvious one, reflecting both the heart and the virtues of honour and courage of the revolutionary in the title of the piece. Red also represents socialism, a belief of Beuys which became central to his later work. However, the colour red is used sparingly and symbolically in the artist’s work, and here it makes a bold statement on life, vitality and the future. The inclusion of the round shape to represent a planet brings an astronomical element into the work.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Scala Napoletana' 1985

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Scala Napoletana
1985
Overall dimensions variable:11000 x 10000 x 6000mm (room size at Bexhill)
Ladder: 4510 x 250 x 80mm, Lead spheres: 500mm diameter each
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Much of the work Beuys made in his last few years includes objects or themes which suggest death. This sculpture was originally inspired by a ladder the artist found while recovering from illness on the island of Capri in Autumn 1985, which he hung with two stones. When he visited Amalfi at Christmas in the same year, he purchased a ladder (Scala Libera) from a landlord which he used to make this sculpture. Held in suspension, it appears as if the pair of lead weights are preventing this heavy wooden ladder from soaring into the air. This is one of the last sculptures Beuys made. He died in January 1986.

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Sled' 1969

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Sled
1969

 

 

The materials used in the making of this work relate to Beuys’s experience of being rescued by nomadic Tartars when his plane was shot down during the Second World War. Fat was rubbed into his body and he was wrapped in felt to keep him warm. The sled looks as if it has been prepared for an expedition or in response to an emergency, with a survival kit strapped to it. The flashlight represents the sense of orientation, the felt is protective, and the fat is for food.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Ohne Titel (Untitled)' 1970

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Ohne Titel (Untitled)
1970
Gelatin silver print on canvas
2330 x 2275 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Wearing his unmistakeable felt trilby hat, with his fishing vest poking through a luxuriant fur-lined jacket, this large image (over two metres square) shows Beuys at his most iconic. The clothes he wears here were part of his artist’s ‘uniform’, chosen for comfort and practicality (the multi-pocketed vest was particularly useful) but also as a way to create his image. Fittingly, he is depicted with one of his most distinctive sculptures. In the foreground is The Pack (1969), a group of twenty-four sledges. Each one has its own survival kit including fat for sustenance, felt for warmth and a torch for navigation, making the artist’s signature materials part of this image too.

Text under images from the National Galleries of Scotland website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

 

De La Warr Pavilion
Bexhill-on-Sea,
East Sussex, TN40 1DP

Opening hours:
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De La Warr Pavilion website

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27
Jun
09

Exhibition: ‘ARTIST ROOMS: Celmins, Gallagher, Hirst, Katz, Warhol, Woodman’ at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 18th November 2009

 

Fancesca Woodman.'From Angel Series, Roma, September 1977' 1977

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
From Angel Series, Roma, September 1977
1977
Gelatin silver print
93 x 93 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
© Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman

 

 

Shining brightly in the firmament the star of the show is, undoubtedly, the supremely talented Francesca Woodman. What an artist – both photographer and subject, here and there, enigmatic, sensual, psychotic, beautiful, playful, and desperate. Who is she; who are we.

Baldly put, “Francesca Woodman’s photographs explore issues of gender and self, looking at the representation of the body in relation to its surroundings… Found objects and suggestive props are carefully placed to create unsettling, surreal or claustrophobic scenarios. Her photographs are produced in thematic series’, relating to specific props, places or situations. In combining performance, play and self-exposure, Woodman’s photographs create extreme and often disturbing psychological states.”

Her photographs are so much more. They promote in the attentive viewer a ghostly insistence that you could be her – in vulnerability, in presence, in fear of suffering, for our death. Who are we that is represented, what is our place in this lonely world, how do we interact with our shadow? “In concealing or encrypting her subjects she reminds the viewer that photographs flatten and distort, never offering the whole truth about a subject.” No. This is no truth.

It is that they offer glimpses of another world, not flattened or distorted, but a lens to focus on the microcosm of the infinite spirit. The personal as universal truth.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978' 1975-1978

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978
1975-1978
Gelatin silver print on paper
139 x 139 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
© Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman

 

 

Throughout 2009, 18 museums and galleries across the UK will be showing over 30 ARTIST ROOMS from the collection created by the dealer and collector, Anthony d’Offay, and acquired by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008. This is the first time a national collection has been shared and shown simultaneously across the UK, and has only been made possible through the exceptional generosity of independent charity The Art Fund and, in Scotland, of the Scottish Government.

The opening displays at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh this spring will include the work of Vija Celmins, Ellen Gallagher, Damien Hirst, Alex Katz, Andy Warhol, and Francesca Woodman. Highlights will include Celmins’ beautiful, delicate images of seas, deserts and the night sky, a complete series of landscape and portrait paintings by the American painter Alex Katz and Francesca Woodman’s intimate, surrealist-influenced photographs. Damien Hirst, the most prominent British artist of today, will feature in an expanded display across several rooms. This will bring together works from ARTIST ROOMS – such as the iconic Away from the Flock (an early example of Hirst’s animals in formaldehyde) and a recent butterfly painting – with additional loans from further collections.

The ARTIST ROOMS display at the Gallery of Modern Art is dedicated to Vija Celmins’ ethereal images of seas, deserts and the night sky, a complete series of landscape and portrait paintings by Alex Katz, and Francesca Woodman’s intimate, surrealist-influenced photographs. Photographs by Warhol and paintings by Ellen Gallagher will also be included. Damien Hirst will feature in an expanded display, which will bring together works from ARTIST ROOMS – such as the iconic Away from the Flock and a recent butterfly painting – with additional loans from further collections.

American artist Vija Celmins makes paintings, drawings and prints. Using charcoal, graphite and erasers she produces delicate images based on photographs of the sea, deserts, the night sky and other natural phenomena.

The ARTIST ROOMS collection comprises 24 works on paper by Celmins, including three unique drawings. Web #1 is typical of her fragile images and is the first of nine works on the theme of the spider’s web. It is accompanied by a series of four ‘web’ prints which echo the web-like construction of the universe. Other works in the collection include an important series from the entitled Concentric Bearings which explores different images of turning space.

Celmins works focus on something small and individual in the context of vastness. The images they depict seem fragile because they record a specific human glimpse through a telescope or camera which is temporary and frozen in time. …

Damien Hirst is the most prominent artist to have emerged from the British art scene in the 1990s. Hirst’s work forces viewers to question their understanding of issues such as the fragility of life, our reluctance to confront death and decay and other dilemmas of human existence.

He is best known for his Natural History works – large-scale sculptures featuring dead animals floating in Minimalist looking vitrines – but also for his mirrored pharmacy cabinets lined with shelves full of evenly spaced drug bottles, pills, sea shells or cigarette butts, and his paintings, which he produces in series.

An example of these, included in ARTIST ROOMS, is the early Controlled Substances Key Painting (Spot 4a). Also included in ARTIST ROOMS is the key work Away from the Flock, featuring a sheep floating in formaldehyde. The large butterfly diptych Monument to the Living and the Dead, 2006 was made specifically for ARTIST ROOMS. …

American photographer Francesca Woodman has eighteen rare vintage black and white photographs in ARTIST ROOMS. They have a timeless unique quality. The artist began taking photographs at the age of thirteen and though she was only twenty two when she took her own life, she left behind a substantial body of work.

Francesca Woodman’s photographs explore issues of gender and self, looking at the representation of the body in relation to its surroundings. She puts herself in the frame most often, although these are not conventional self-portraits as she is either partially hidden, or concealed by slow exposures that blur her moving figure into a ghostly presence.

Found objects and suggestive props are carefully placed to create unsettling, surreal or claustrophobic scenarios. Her photographs are produced in thematic series’, relating to specific props, places or situations. In combining performance, play and self-exposure, Woodman’s photographs create extreme and often disturbing psychological states.

Andy Warhol is one of the most influential American artists to emerge in the post-war period. ARTIST ROOMS includes an impressive selection of 232 works which span the artist’s entire work. This display focuses on a group of stitched photographs from the collection.

After graduating and moving to New York in 1949, Warhol quickly became established as one of the city’s most sought after commercial illustrators, working for magazines such as Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar. However, it was in the early-sixties that he began to produce the work for which he is most celebrated.

As the most famous proponent of Pop Art, his earliest ‘pop’ works depict consumer goods and images from the press. This evolved to reveal his enduring fascination with celebrity and mortality, with many of his most powerful images touching on these themes.

ARTIST ROOMS comprises a superb array of important works representing all phases of Warhol’s career and a cross-section of media. Warhol explored the medium of photography extensively and began producing stitched photographs in 1986. Returning to his earlier predilection for repetition, Warhol used multiple prints of the same photographs that he then had sewn together to form a composite work of art. By repeating the same image, Warhol could extend the abstract design to the whole work and emphasise the broader significance of what might seem to be peculiarly singular and oddball.”

Text from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art website [Online] Cited 25/06/2009 no longer available online

 

Vija Celmins (Latvian-American, b. 1938) 'Web #1' 1999

 

Vija Celmins (Latvian-American, b. 1938)
Web #1
1999
Mezzotint on paper
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
© Vija Celmins

 

 

Celmins’s intense monochromatic images, based on photographs, focus on small and individual marks in the context of vastness. The images seem fragile because they record a specific human glimpse through a camera which is ephemeral and frozen in time. Celmins’s serial exploration of her subjects, including spider webs, allows the artist to exploit the distinct characteristics of the variety of media she uses. This meticulous, translucent web is typical of her apparently fragile, ephemeral images. These images echo the web-like construction of the universe, a further preoccupation of the artist. Celmins has explained: “Maybe I identify with the spider. I’m the kind of person who works on something forever and then works on the same image again the next day.”

Text from the Tate website

 

Vija Celmins. 'Untitled (Web 1)' 2001

 

Vija Celmins (Latvian-American, b. 1938)
Untitled (Web 1)
2001
Mezzotint on paper
175 x 194 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
© Vija Celmins

 

Damien Hirst (English, b. 1965) 'Controlled Substances Key Painting (Spot 4a)' 1994

 

Damien Hirst (English, b. 1965)
Controlled Substances Key Painting (Spot 4a)
1994
Acrylic paint on canvas
Support: 1220 x 1224 x 40 mm
Frame: 1307 x 1303 x 81 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

This canvas is constructed using a grid of dots of different colours, accompanied by letters in alphabetical order that seem to dissect and reorganise the very matter of painting into cells. Hirst has said that he only painted five of his spot paintings himself, since he found them so boring to paint and could not do them as well as his assistants. But the key thing about these works is their conceptual clarity – the potentiality of making an infinite number and variety of paintings, based on size and colour of the dots and size and shape of the canvases. Like Andy Warhol, whom Hirst greatly admires, Hirst has set up a sort of factory with assistants to help him make his works of arts. Like Warhol, Hirst retains central control of what and how it is produced.

Text from the Tate website

 

Damien Hirst (English, b. 1965) 'Away from the flock' 1995

 

Damien Hirst (English, b. 1965)
Away from the flock
1995
Glass, stainless steel, Perspex, acrylic paint, lamb and formaldehyde solution
960 x 1490 x 510 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2019

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Eel Series, Roma, May-August 1977' 1977

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Eel Series, Roma, May 1977 – August 1978
1977
Gelatin silver print
219 x 219 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
© Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman

 

 

Woodman lies naked, in a vulnerable state, the curve of her body echoing the curved form of the eel. She has printed several similar versions of this image with her body on either side of the eel. While Woodman was studying in Rome between 1977 and 1978 she came into contact with the Symbolist work of Max Klinger, whose influence can be seen in this series. The image is sexually charged, yet in placing herself on both sides of the camera Woodman hovers between being in control and being defenceless, exploring the ways in which femininity can be portrayed. The photograph is not a self-portrait in the conventional sense, as it explores the possibilities of representation, instead of revealing the artist’s identity.

Text from the Tate website

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled, 1975-1980' 1975-1980

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, 1975-1980
1975-1980
Gelatin silver print on paper and ink
144 x 144 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
© Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled, 1975-1980' 1975-1980

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, 1975-1980
1975-1980
Gelatin silver print on paper
141 x 140 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
© Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman

 

 

Crouched against a dilapidated interior, Woodman conceals her face with her hand. The combination between the vintage pattern of her dress and the peeling wall behind her create an antique, romantic air. Woodman’s photographs exhibit many influences, from Symbolism and Surrealism to fashion photography and Baroque painting. She explores issues of gender and self, looking at the representation of the body in relation to its surroundings. Woodman usually puts herself in the frame, although these are not conventional self-portraits, since as she is either partially hidden, or concealed by slow exposures that blur her moving figure into a ghostly presence. This underlying fragility is emphasised by the small and intimate format of the photographs.

 

ARTISTS ROOMS Essay

American photographer Francesca Woodman has eighteen rare vintage black and white photographs in ARTIST ROOMS, acquired from a collection once owned by the artist’s boyfriend. Woodman’s photographs exhibit many influences, from symbolism and surrealism to fashion photography and Baroque painting. They have a timeless quality that is ethereal and unique.

The artist began taking photographs at the age of thirteen, and though she was only twenty two when she took her own life, she left behind a substantial body of work. Francesca Woodman’s photographs explore issues of gender and self, looking at the representation of the body in relation to its surroundings.

She puts herself in the frame most often, although these are not conventional self-portraits as she is either partially hidden, or concealed by slow exposures that blur her moving figure into a ghostly presence. This underlying vulnerability is further emphasised by the small and intimate format of the photographs. We often see her in otherwise deserted interior spaces, where her body seems to merge with its surroundings, covered by sections of peeling wallpaper, half hidden behind the flat plane of a door, or crouching over a mirror. Found objects and suggestive props are carefully placed to create unsettling, surreal or claustrophobic scenarios.

Her photographs are produced in thematic series, relating to specific props, places or situations. Woodman was exposed to the symbolic work of Max Klinger whilst studying in Rome from 1977-78 and his influence can clearly be seen in many photographic series, such as Eel Series, Roma and Angel Series, Roma.

In combining performance, play and self-exposure, Woodman’s photographs create extreme and often disturbing psychological states. In concealing or encrypting her subjects she reminds the viewer that photographs flatten and distort, never offering the whole truth about a subject.

Text from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art website [Online] Cited 05/03/2019

 

Andy Warhol. 'Trash cans' 1986

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Trash cans
1986
4 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper and thread
Support: 698 x 543 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Warhol’s stitched photographs depict a wide range of subjects including signs, objects, celebrities, nude models and buildings. Trash Cans is one of many that focus on everyday and ordinary objects and can be related to some of Warhol’s best-known pop works, in which common objects and consumer goods (for example Brillo boxes, Coca-Cola bottles, and Campbell’s soup cans) are isolated from their everyday context so as to foreground their individual aesthetic value. Many of Warhol’s pop works are also composed of repetitious images, for example his screenprints in which identical images are repeated numerous times across a canvas, such as Marilyn Diptych 1962 (Tate T03093). It is thus useful to compare Trash Cans with Warhol’s screenprints featuring multiple images of Campbell’s soup cans – especially given the similarities between the shapes of the different receptacles.

Text from the Tate website

 

Andy Warhol. 'I am blind' 1976-1986

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
I am blind
1976-1986
9 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper
Frame: 1315 x 1066 x 26 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

Andy Warhol. 'Venus in Shell' 1976-1986

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Venus in Shell
1976-1986
4 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper and thread
Object: 700 x 542 mm
Acquired jointly with the Tate through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR

Opening hours:
Open daily, 10am-5pm
Admission free

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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