Fernando Mastrangelo: 'Something within NOTHING' - Haley Weiss, Interview Magazine.

The buzz surrounding New York-based artist Fernando Mastrangelo's previous work focused primarily on its politically charged and often controversial content. His cocaine-based sculpture of a coca farmworker titled Felix once caught the D.E.A.'s attention, and his white corn and cornmeal modernization of the Aztec calendar in Avarice raised questions concerning the production of corn-related products in Mexico and its economic relationship to the United States. Now, while these decidedly socially grand gestures are not present in Mastrangelo's first solo exhibition at Mike Weiss Gallery (which opened last week in New York), something can be found in "NOTHING."

Mastrangelo's strict attention to his chosen materials—a quality that crosses over into the widely coveted, elegant sculptural furniture he creates with Samuel Amoia for AMMA Studio—is exemplified through his treatment of mundane materials in "NOTHING." Mastrangelo engineered an exhibition constructed almost entirely of salt and sand, with some cement included for good measure. In exploring the uncanny nature of these materials, Mastrangelo invites an existential questioning of their recontextualization. Moving beyond the existential, the pieces he created are meditative and in balance with themselves. Sculptures of significant scale seem light and poised; the contents of each work can be inspected down to individual grains of salt and sand, or largely observed as the abstract amalgams they form.

In discovering his own "language of abstraction," Mastrangelo has entered a new phase of his artistic career. "I had to learn that these grand gestures don't really go very far in the art world," Mastrangelo said of his shift away from political content. "I'm not jaded by making [political] statements, but I certainly am more cautious about the way people read or react to a statement."

We visited the artist in his Flushing, Queens studio while he made final preparations for "NOTHING."


FERNANDO MASTRANGELO: I signed on in November to work with Mike [Weiss] and now we're here, so it happened very quickly. For the show, I really wanted it to be very reduced, very reductive—so, the sand pieces are just the simple gesture of taking the sand and [pauses], you know, I feel like it's a painting stroke. It's done very quickly with these rakes, and then there's a moment when the piece is done and you step back and say, "That's it."

HALEY WEISS: I was thinking that these sand pieces look like rays of light, with the way that the planes intersect. MASTRANGELO: You're absolutely right. I went to Miami in December for [Art] Basel and I was trying to think about what I wanted to do for the show and where I felt like I was as an artist. So [these pieces] were a way to return back to the simple imagery of using elements from the beach, and horizons, and things that I'm resonating with right now.

WEISS: Where did you get all of the sand?

MASTRANGELO: I buy it online. Believe it or not, this stuff is called silica sand. Actually, I'm doing a couple of pieces for Miami, for a hotel down there, and they're shipping me the sand from Miami, which I think I would have almost like to have done for this project. WEISS: I know that with some of your other work, the materials are from a specific place, like the cornmeal in Avarice was from Mexico.

MASTRANGELO: I've loosened up over the years about that. I started off working for Matthew Barney, and that's what his mentality is. Even while we were making pieces, like a mold, the mold would make sense conceptually with the piece. That's how deep his symbology goes. I've loosened up over the years because I very much had that mentality.

WEISS: I suppose it's different when it's a bit more political, too—when every material needs to be tied to an understanding of what you're trying to portray.

MASTRANGELO: Right, or else it's like you haven't done your homework. But with this work, it's a little more freeing. And that's part of it for me, too, just letting go a little bit. In other words, just allowing the material to be what it is and not transforming it into imagery or a calendar.

WEISS: And instead letting it call attention to itself as a surface.

MASTRANGELO: Exactly. It took me a very long time to realize that inherently the materials have this beautiful quality without me having to impose meaning onto them.

WEISS: Everyone will bring different meanings to the materials anyway. Especially salt, as a symbol and historically sought-after material that now seems ever-present.

MASTRANGELO: Right, it has it's own rich history. Not to be too didactic about this, but a lot of it is sea salt, and this imagery revolves around beach horizons. I have this photo that I took that ended up sort of becoming this piece. [standing in front of a 84 x 120" salt and sand piece that is laid on a table] This is the big boy. It's going to be hung vertically. I love this piece. Something really special happened. Do you make art?

WEISS: Yeah, I do.

MASTRANGELO: Have you ever had a moment where you finish a piece, and then all of a sudden the piece sort of takes on it's own life beyond you?

WEISS: Definitely.

MASTRANGELO: It doesn't happen every time, but there are some pieces where that happens, and I love that. I feel like that's what I'm seeking nowadays, that moment of transcendence with a piece. Where this thing becomes larger than me as a person. It becomes otherworldly, and then I get separated as maker from it, and then it has it's own life. I love that.

WEISS: Especially when you don't necessarily anticipate that and it happens.

MASTRANGELO: I think that you're always hoping, and then something emerges and you think, "Fuck, this is it." That's that moment. When people ask me now about why I make art, I think that's what I'm seeking. I didn't know that so clearly [before]. Because otherwise you're just in the hustle, you're trying to pay your bills, to do this and that, and then there's that unique moment, when you're not thinking about the market, or if it's going to sell, and all of that bullshit.

WEISS: Is everything in the show made of sand and salt?

MASTRANGELO: Everything is sand and salt, and this is also cement. [walks toward a sculpture of two intersecting triangles] This is the big, epic, tall sculpture for the exhibition. What happened with this piece was I was going to line the interior with salt—the whole thing—and then I thought, "Is there any way that we could make [the salt] part of the structure?"

WEISS: It's like the drum stools that you make for AMMA.

MASTRANGELO: Yeah, it's that transition. You see the way that the salt corrodes the cement a little. I love that. That's stuff that you can't control.

WEISS: I read that part of what you like about [salt] is that it destroys and preserves, right?

MASTRANGELO: Exactly, I love that aspect of it conceptually. It's totally true, and we notice that in here when we're making things. It has its own life. This design [of this piece] was actually inspired by my friends getting married recently. They've been together 11 years and she's a graphic designer. She came up with this design of two triangles coming together, and it was on the invitation for their wedding. I said, "Guys, not only do I want to make a piece for you, but I also want to articulate it in this language." It's the only piece that's a little bit further out of the simple language. It's simple, but it's a little aggressive, and I like that. WEISS: The striations in the cement make it look very natural.

MASTRANGELO: That's the idea. Taking cement, which we're used to thinking of as a mundane material, and reinvigorating it. These pieces also give me a feeling of calm, and a feeling of meditation. I feel like I can just be with them. They do something that I don't have to. They do the work, and I can just sit back and think, "How am I feeling?" It's such a departure from my old work. I'm 36 now, I feel like I'm changing as a human being, and I think that the work needed to be in line with where I'm at. When I was younger and I was making political work, I was trying to figure out where my work fit in because when you're young you're like, "I don't know." I'm Latino, I grew up in Mexico, and so I thought that maybe I had to talk about those things. Then finally I didn't need my identity to rely on anymore. So now the work is becoming about more esoteric things, I guess—my own sort of language.

WEISS: Does your design work with AMMA inform your artistic practice? Do they merge frequently?

MASTRANGELO: Absolutely. AMMA skyrocketed so quickly, so now I feel like we have to live up to that. There's a little bit of expectations, but I don't look at a lot of design. I try to stay focused on making sculptural art pieces and somehow translating them into design.WEISS: That's why people are reacting to them so well. It's like having an art piece, not just furniture.

MASTRANGELO: I agree. I think there was a necessity for it. WEISS: I saw that you have a "nothing" tattoo on your arm. Does that predate the choice for the exhibition title?

MASTRANGELO: Yeah. This is the personal side of things. When I started going through some of those transitions in my mind, just as a human being versus as an artist, I tried to... Essentially, I did this thing called Landmark Forum. It's three days of mind-expanding, existential philosophy, like Jean-Paul Sartre for everyday living. In existential philosophy they talk about "Being and Nothingness," this idea of not putting meaning onto things, and that in that way you live more purely. In other words, we form reality from these stories that we make up about our lives. So, I'm thinking, "Oh, this and this happened. It means that I'm not a good artist, or that I'm this or that." You just make up shit in your mind when the reality is completely different. I started to realize that I was out of whack in terms of reality and I was living in these ideas that I was making up. Like, "If I don't have a gallery by the time I'm out of college then that means something." So I took this thing [at Landmark Forum] and I had all of these realizations and that's when I got this tattoo to remind me to live into nothing, just don't make up meaning. [laughs] Today I had a weird email that I had to deal with, and I thought, "Okay, what's reality and what are you telling yourself?" I try to distinguish between those two.

When I was speaking to Mike [Weiss] about the exhibition, I was telling him about where I was and he saw the tattoo and said, "That's the title! Let's do that!" I thought it was a little aggressive. I don't want to come off as, "This is nothing." [both laugh] I was wondering how people would take it, but then I embraced it and it does connect to my personal philosophy.

WEISS: It makes conceptual sense, too. Speaking of "Being and Nothingness," there is something uncanny in removing your materials from their original contexts, and calling attention to them as materials and not to their associated meanings or uses.

MASTRANGELO: Exactly. That's perfect. [pauses] It all made good conceptual sense. A few years ago I would have been more hardcore about that stuff, but sometimes I think you just have to trust that the things you're doing make sense, instead of sitting down and analyzing this and that and, "Well, I read Foucault saying..." [both laugh] The world and the universe have a way of resolving themselves eloquently, I think, if you're doing the right things.

WEISS: Foucault is like the F-word in academia; you just wait for someone to mention it and think, "Here it comes..." [both laugh]

MASTRANGELO: And they always do! When I was in college, it was Derrida. Everyone was dropping quotes. [laughs] I remember thinking that was important—and I don't say that it's not now—but we're just living our lives. I don't have time to think about that. WEISS: Yeah, and that relates to everything you were just talking about with "nothing," and not making up all of these other stories and narratives.

MASTRANGELO: Right. It's so much more freeing. I wonder [what it would be like] if everyone lived that way. [pauses] It'd be such a cool world.


Gabriel Scott

With backgrounds in architecture, industrial design, and fashion design, Gabriel Kakon and Scott Richler, have brought a rich collection of skill, creativity and style to the furniture world since their start in 2004. It is since then that the Canadian duo has exclusively designed and manufactured for the to-the-trade market, both in Canada and the U.S. Today.

How much of an influence does fashion have on the pieces you create? Fashion plays a huge role in how I see the world and how I interpret trends. I studied at Parsons and have been influenced by fashion my entire life. I love to follow designers from the past and present and use the clothing they create as inspirations in the furniture I create.

Was Anna Wintour your first fashion client? Yes Anna Wintour was one of my first big fashion clients in the late '90s. Its such an honor to have her be a fan of my work.

Who else from the fashion community purchases from you? Helmut Lang, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger and Tory Burch are some of our clients.

Your pieces have been compared to works of art, and well tailored clothing .. what are some of your favorite designers and artists? 
Alexander McQueen, Martin Margiela, Commes de Garcons, Jill Sander, George Condo, Gustav Klimt, Jeff Koons, Henry Moore, Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg, and Christopher Wool.

Your pieces have been compared to works of art, and well tailored clothing .. what are some of your favorite designers and artists? 
Alexander McQueen, Martin Margiela, Commes de Garcons, Jill Sander, George Condo, Gustav Klimt, Jeff Koons, Henry Moore, Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg, and Christopher Wool.
How did the Twentieth showroom in LA come to carry your Riemann chair? 
The collaboration came about because I wanted to have a presence in Los Angeles and the Twentieth gallery just seemed like the right fit.Twentieth in my opinion is the best showroom in Los Angeles and I am grateful to be represented by a showroom that truly appreciates and understands my work. 
What other galleries do you plan on expanding to? 
We are looking to expand into other galleries in other cities such as Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco but it's very important to find the right fit.


Thank you Angeleno Modern Luxury and Maile Pingel for the design spotlight on the Riemann Chair. “For Lawrence, who is widely respected for spotting some of the most important and influential designers now working in the field, the latest design from New York-based designer Craig Van Den Brulle was too great a showstopper not to feature.”

The Extraordinary Liana Yaroslavsky By Golriz Moeini


A rare woman is very difficult to describe-therefore I prefer to do an interview of Liana Yaroslavsky.

I met Liana several years ago in Paris and now she is planning to come and work in the U.S, designing furniture and decorating homes. Liana is an incredible and undeniably elegant woman. She has a tall physique, beautiful face, generous smile, and intelligent eyes. Her sense of style is considered "high fashion", yet she has an understated sophistication and grace that I feel comes with her colorful background. She usually wears her hair short and sleeked back. She wears haute couture and ready to wear collections right of the runway. She walks into a party like a noble aristocrat. She is on the guest lists at the most premiere fashion and social circles. She is a global woman of fine taste and character. She is a mother, an incredible artist and an interior decorator.

Liana's coffee tables are thought-provoking. Her designs are so original that the person with the most esteemed tastes would want to have her artful furniture in their homes. Each piece is more like a gallery art piece. Her life would actually make for an incredible Hollywood script. She is anything but ordinary. She is unforgettable and distingué.

What is your design and school background, do you think it helped your creativity or was that innate?
I went to Parsons School of Design in NY, graduated as a graphic designer and worked in that field for 13 years. Parsons was an amazing experience. NY at the end of the '80s was inspiring but I came with my "baggage" from Communist Russia and then Israeli army. Different cultures intertwined helps to have a different perspective. Later I changed to interior decoration and furniture design. It just came naturally and I have been designing for the last 25 years...

How did you grow into being an avant garde designer?
I just don't like anything ordinary- I want to push the boundaries and create things that are surprising with an historical reference.

I've been following Russian designers over the past few years, and they are ferociously taking over the art and fashion industries, Russians have an amazing sense of style and skill in design, why do you think that is?
Rich history and repression, is a great base for art and creativity to blossom.

Do you meet your new clients in social atmospheres or do they find you after having seen your work at galleries?
Mostly I design for clients that have seen or read about my work. I don't like to talk about my work at dinner parties, I much prefer to hear about others since I know all about myself already...

How do you think Paris style differs from LA? in NY there's a distinct aesthetic in furniture fashion- how do they differ in terms of the weather and culture in terms of designing?
LA is less formal, it is more about the outdoors and a relaxed atmosphere. Paris is focused more on history and formality. NY is more about the grunge.

Your coffee tables are magnificent, how was that unique design concept born? 
The concept was born from designing a coffee table for myself. I couldn't find one so I designed it, after seeing the result and quite amazing reviews, I was inspired to design a collection The inspiration of the collection came from different fields; history, movies, music and found objects. I gave liberty to my imagination without thinking about the technical aspects. I derived from the idea- that there is always a way how to construct and make them- the idea came first, then the technical struggle, after. Some of the pieces I sketched first, then found a way to make them. Those are the limited edition series. For the one off pieces, I acquired objects from different times in history, deconstructed, reconstructed and associated them to other objects. It's like making an installation or conducting an orchestra. The result was surprising... an old object associated with a new way of presenting it radiated a unique energy and a new story.

Do you have any favorites among your designs?
I don't have favorites. All my creations are unique to me, each came from a different inspiration. You know, between the sketch, the concept, the technical struggle then when eventually the piece is born into real life. It is surprising and very emotional process, the result is not always what I expected, but I always found it to be better in real than on paper. It's like having a baby-you fall in love with it when it comes into the world. I cannot have favorites. Even though there is a margin of error and imperfection since everything is done by hand, I think it adds to the charm. 

Your status as a sought after designer became a lot more evident after which recent showing? why do you think?
I think it is a combination of various publications, shows and awards but mostly it is a style that is unique. The show in Pratt Gallery in NY was very important but also the one in the Meurice hotel in Paris, where they actually kept my creations for a whole year since they felt it melted into their environment perfectly. 

Why are you drawn to LA? and where is your favorite places to go? On that same note, where would you compare it to (or not) in your favorite places of Paris?
LA is a happy and sunny place, people work hard but they don't seem so stressed as in NY or upset as in Paris. My favorite place in LA is the Beverly Hills Hotel. I find it to be a perfection; the pink, the banana leaves, the hollywood glamour and the martinis. I cannot compare it to Paris and it is a good thing since it's unique. My favorite restaurant in Paris is Caviar Kaspia with its Russian food and French atmosphere facing the Madelaine church. 

What is in store here in the future for you here in terms of commissioned work? 
I am represented in LA by Twentieth Gallery which I think is the perfect place for me and it helps that I love their selection of designers and artists. It is quite an amazing place! 

What do you look for in a man? 
Oh it's simple, I want him to be intelligent, generous, affectionate, successful, confident, funny, tall and know which wine to choose. 

Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
Unfortunately I cannot mention any yet but there are quite few in perspective with central, monumental pieces and interior decoration. I will have to spend a lot of time in the U.S. for that and produce them locally, it is very exciting, new and challenging working with new vendors away from my comfort zone.

You have such presence when you walk into a party! Are you are aware of that, did it help that you were a model?
I was a model ages ago but I do not think it has anything to do with the way I walk into a party and no, I am not aware of my presence, maybe that's the key - not trying too hard. 

You're great friends with several fashion designers that I do they differ from interior designers?
They don't but they are more under pressure since they have to produce at least 2 collections per year. 

What is your beauty regimen?

What is your guilty pleasure?
Dark chocolate. 

Where is your favorite place to travel for relaxation? inspiration? for fun? 
Maldives for relaxation, Venice for inspiration and NY for fun. 

I know so many people in LA that want you to design for them, how do you plan to work with them when you go back to Paris?

I don't plan to go to Paris, at least not for long. I have so many work opportunities here that this is the new place to be. LA become quite a center for art and design and it is still growing. I would like to be in a place that is developing. When there is a space art fills it up and LA is one. Seriously, I do have quite few upcoming projects in the U.S., I do feel that I can bring a new and fresh perspective and this is not saying that there are no great designers here because there are plenty.

What is your perfect morning? evening?
Sunny morning with coffee and Huffington Post and evenings spent with friends around a great meal that I didn't cook. 

If you moved to LA, where would be the ideal location you'd like to live?
I really like West Hollywood. It has the privacy, nature and social life at the same time. Coming from Paris, I need something that resembles a center. 

Could you describe to me your character in five words?
Spontaneous, creative-insecure (comes as a package), funny (my kids don't think so), passionate and curious. 

What is important to you in a friendship? relationship?
Loyalty, laughs, open mind and love. Not very original.

Pedro Ramírez Vázquez: Eight Reasons the Midcentury Icon Deserves Your Attention

The late Modernist architect—the Frank Gehry of Mexico—makes a good cocktail-party mention this week, especially now that his furniture’s back on the scene


HE WAS A ONE-MAN midcentury design powerhouse in Mexico, an architect whose contributions—especially his stewardship of the 1968 Olympics—made him one of the country’s true talents. Pedro Ramírez Vázquez (1919-2013) combined a knack for buildings that have the formal daring and pop appeal of, say, Frank Gehry with the political clout and urban impact of New York master-planner Robert Moses. Here’s what else you need to know.

His biggest fan: Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius first met Mr. Ramírez Vázquez in 1952 in Mexico City and was smitten. “Young man,” said Mr. Gropius, “you’re going to soar.”

His most famous building: The National Museum of Anthropology—a concrete megalith built in 1964 that nodded to Mexico City’s monumental Aztec temples—was hailed by American architect Philip Johnson as “the best museum in the world.”

His life’s work, in 20 words or less: To give Mexico a reputation as a leading-edge architectural destination, combining elements of his country’s past with forward-looking European Modernism.

His gold medal: As president of the organizing committee for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, he left an indelible mark on the city, and, thanks to graphic designer Lance Wyman, gave the games its coolest logo.

His lowest moment: Also the 1968 Olympics. Ten days before the opening ceremony, dozens (and possibly hundreds) of student protesters were killed by soldiers of the Mexican government, Mr. Ramírez Vázquez’s biggest, most important client. In the minds of many, he was guilty by association.

His weakness: Sugar. “He always stole everyone’s dessert,” recalled his son, Javier. “But he was a wonderful grandfather.”

Why now: This week, newly launched Mexican furniture brand Luteca reissued his Equipal Chair, one of the best examples of his cultural synthesis—with its pre-Columbian-meets-Bauhausian vibe.

Next up: “Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980,” organized by curator Barry Bergdoll at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, opens March 29 and will include several of Mr. Ramírez Vázquez’s architectural works.

Three years ago Swedish-Mexican designer Alexander Andersson happened upon a cache of cedar benches in La Lagunilla, Mexico City’s sprawling weekend flea market.

“They were so spectacular, I knew someone great had designed them,” Andersson says.

He went with his gut and bought all 12, hiring a truck to haul the massive pieces to his garage. The epiphany didn’t come until a year later during a visit to the city’s renowned anthropology museum. The exact same seats were installed in the main hall of the building’s iconic interior: “Of course,” Andersson realized. “Pedro Ramírez Vázquez.”

The famous Mexican modernist architect (1919–2013), who worked mostly in concrete, was behind a handful of Mexico City monuments: the Museum of Modern Art, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the National Anthropology Museum.

There’s no telling how the pieces Andersson bought were separated from the original set, which was made on commission specifically for the museum. Andersson immediately phoned the aged architect, then in his 90s, and asked whether he would authenticate the pieces, which he hoped to sell in art galleries. In a serendipitous moment, Vázquez invited him over to his studio space in the Jardines del Pedregal.

“He signed my certificates, and he gave me a tour of the house—and all of a sudden I saw this piece in one corner, that piece in another corner, and I thought, Everything is amazing. So I asked him, ‘Who has the license for your furniture?’”

Vázquez’s response: “License?”

And so a collection was born. Andersson took on the production rights to Vázquez’s designs that, until then, had been created only as prototypes or in limited editions for projects. Striking tables in polished stainless steel and brass are each made from single pieces of metal, cut and folded. A regal Equipal chair in leather and stainless steel is a modern riff on the emblematic wood-and-leather chair from Mexican history.

“It used to be the chair of emperors,” Andersson explains. “They say Montezuma had one.”

The reeditions of Vázquez’s furnishings join a collection of Andersson’s own designs to form Luteca, the brand that launched this week at New York’s Hotel Americano (not coincidentally designed by Mexican architect Enrique Norten) in Chelsea.

While Luteca's headquarters is in New York City, the real magic happens in the Mexico City design studio and workshop, where every item of furniture is made with traditional processes. Rather than welding, metal pieces are held together by tiny screws. Old-school joinery techniques are used on wood furnishings. To polish a single chair can take a whole week.

“The idea is to create contemporary products and preserve Mexican handcraft,” Andersson says, a calling both he and Vázquez have shared.

Pieces from the Luteca collection will be available starting next week at Twentieth, 7470 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, Call Luteca for more information, 646-510-5244;

Luteca Spotlight Twentieth

The time has come for the Moooi founders Marcel Wanders and Casper Vissers to repurchase the remaining stake from B&B Italia, making them now fully owners of Moooi. Wanders and Vissers have been running Moooi since its launch in 2001; Wanders acting as art director and Vissers as company CEO. Ever since, they have collaborated intensively together. Moooi and B&B Italia have been partners since 2006, when B&B Italia S.P.A. acquired a 50% stake in Moooi B.V. To everyone’s satisfaction the synergy between B&B Italia and Moooi, under the full management of Vissers and Wanders, worked out very well. During this fruitful and meaningful eight-year collaboration, Moooi grew from 6 million euro revenue in 2006 to 23 million euro revenue in 2014. Giorgio Busnelli (Chairman of B&B Italia), Paola Centemero (CFO of B&B Italia) and all B&B Italia team members had a key role in Moooi's growth. Moooi’s steady growing business gained huge attention in the international design field, becoming a recognized luxury furniture and lighting brand that conquered an important position in the design industry (exporting now to 69 countries) with huge potential for further expansion and acceleration. A growing milestone has been achieved despite a challenging design market over the past two years. The coming years will represent strong continuous growth for Moooi. In addition to having conquered the European market, the USA market has also grown significantly. In May 2015 Moooi will open its first Showroom & Brand Store in New York, to which will follow a London Brand Store the beginning of 2017. All the above steps once again reaffirm Wanders and Vissers strong belief in the company’s value and immense potential.

A sculptural expression of movement and wit, Palindrome chandelier is a malleable fixture that can fulfill any spatial and aesthetic need. Its looping form, driven by a sequence of shaped steel arms and cast glass heads, can be read forward or backward (much like a palindromic number or word) and if desired, folds into itself with ease. This kinetic chandelier's sand-blasted lamps diffuse LED light in a soft, yet powerful manner and can be rotated to further enhance atmosphere. Custom powder coatings available.

Available here: RBW Palindrome at Twentieth

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