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Robert Rauschenberg

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Title: Robert Rauschenberg  
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Subject: Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Ace Gallery, Late modernism, John Cage
Collection: 1925 Births, 2008 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Painters, 20Th-Century American Sculptors, 21St-Century American Painters, Aiga Medalists, Alumni of the Académie Julian, American Members of the Churches of Christ, American People of Cherokee Descent, American People of German Descent, American Pop Artists, American Printmakers, American Sculptors, Art Students League of New York Alumni, Artists from Florida, Artists from New York, Artists from Texas, Assemblage Artists, Bisexual Artists, Bisexual Men, Black Mountain College Alumni, Cardiovascular Disease Deaths in Florida, Contemporary Painters, Deaths from Heart Failure, Grammy Award Winners, Kansas City Art Institute Alumni, Lgbt Artists from the United States, Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Modern Painters, People from Port Arthur, Texas, Recipients of the Praemium Imperiale, United States National Medal of Arts Recipients
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Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg
Robert Rauschenberg (1968)
Born Milton Ernest Rauschenberg
(1925-10-22)October 22, 1925
Port Arthur, Texas
Died May 12, 2008(2008-05-12) (aged 82)
Captiva, Florida, United States
Nationality American
Education Kansas City Art Institute
Académie Julian
Black Mountain College
Art Students League of New York
Known for Assemblage
Notable work Canyon (1959), Monogram (1959)
Movement Neo-Dada, Abstract Expressionism
Awards Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts (1995)
Praemium Imperiale (1998)

Robert Rauschenberg (October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008) was an American painter and graphic artist whose early works anticipated the pop art movement. Rauschenberg is well known for his "Combines" of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations. Rauschenberg was both a painter and a sculptor and the Combines are a combination of both, but he also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance.[1][2] He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993.[3] He became the recipient of the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts in 1995 in recognition of his more than 40 years of fruitful artmaking.[4]

Rauschenberg lived and worked in New York City as well as on Captiva Island, Florida until his death from heart failure on May 12, 2008.[5]


  • Life and career 1
  • Death 2
  • Artistic contribution 3
    • The White Paintings, Black Paintings, and Red Paintings 3.1
    • Combines 3.2
    • Performance and dance 3.3
    • Commissions 3.4
  • Exhibitions 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Art market 6
    • Lobbying for artists' resale royalties 6.1
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Life and career

Rauschenberg was born as Milton Ernest Rauschenberg in Port Arthur, Texas, the son of Dora Carolina (née Matson) and Ernest R. Rauschenberg.[6][7][8] His father was of German and Cherokee ancestry and his mother of Anglo-Saxon descent.[9][10] His parents were Fundamentalist Christians.[9] Rauschenberg was afflicted with dyslexia.[11]

At 16, Rauschenberg was admitted to the University of Texas where he began studying pharmacy.[11] He was drafted into the United States Navy in 1943. Based in California, he served as a mental hospital technician until his discharge in 1945.[11]

Rauschenberg subsequently studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and the Académie Julian in Paris, France, where he met the painter Susan Weil. In 1948 Rauschenberg and Weil decided to attend Black Mountain College in North Carolina.[12][13]

Canyon (1959)

Josef Albers, a founder of the Bauhaus, became Rauschenberg's painting instructor at Black Mountain. Albers' preliminary courses relied on strict discipline that did not allow for any "uninfluenced experimentation".[14] Rauschenberg described Albers as influencing him to do "exactly the reverse" of what he was being taught.[5]

From 1949 to 1952 Rauschenberg studied with Vaclav Vytlacil and Morris Kantor at the Art Students League of New York,[15] where he met fellow artists Knox Martin and Cy Twombly.[16]

Rauschenberg married Susan Weil in 1950. Their only child, Christopher, was born July 16, 1951. They divorced in 1953.[17] According to a 1987 oral history by the composer Morton Feldman, after the end of his marriage, Rauschenberg had romantic relationships with fellow artists Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns.[18] An article by Jonathan D. Katz states that Rauschenberg's affair with Twombly began during his marriage to Susan Weil.[19]


Rauschenberg died on May 12, 2008, on Captiva Island, Florida.[20] He died of heart failure after a personal decision to go off life support.[21][22] Rauschenberg is survived by his partner of 25 years, artist Darryl Pottorf,[22] his former assistant.[15] Rauschenberg is also survived by his son, photographer Christopher Rauschenberg, and his sister, Janet Begneaud.

Artistic contribution

Rauschenberg's approach was sometimes called "Neo Dadaist," a label he shared with the painter Jasper Johns.[23] Rauschenberg was quoted as saying that he wanted to work "in the gap between art and life" suggesting he questioned the distinction between art objects and everyday objects, reminiscent of the issues raised by the "Fountain", by Dada pioneer, Marcel Duchamp. At the same time, Johns' paintings of numerals, flags, and the like, were reprising Duchamp's message of the role of the observer in creating art's meaning.

Alternatively, in 1961, Rauschenberg took a step in what could be considered the opposite direction by championing the role of creator in creating art's meaning. Rauschenberg was invited to participate in an exhibition at the Galerie Iris Clert, where artists were to create and display a portrait of the owner, Iris Clert. Rauschenberg's submission consisted of a telegram sent to the gallery declaring "This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so."

Robert Rauschenberg, Riding Bikes, Berlin, Germany, 1998.

From the fall of 1952 to the spring of 1953 Rauschenberg traveled through Europe and North Africa with his fellow artist and partner Cy Twombly. In Morocco, he created collages and boxes out of trash. He took them back to Italy and exhibited them at galleries in Rome and Florence. A lot of them sold; those that did not he threw into the river Arno.[24] From his stay, 38 collages survived.[25] In a famously cited incident of 1953, Rauschenberg erased a drawing by de Kooning, which he obtained from his colleague for the express purpose of erasing it as an artistic statement. The result is titled Erased de Kooning Drawing.[26][27]

By 1962, Rauschenberg's paintings were beginning to incorporate not only found objects but found images as well - photographs transferred to the canvas by means of the silkscreen process. Previously used only in commercial applications, silkscreen allowed Rauschenberg to address the multiple reproducibility of images, and the consequent flattening of experience that implies. In this respect, his work is contemporaneous with that of Andy Warhol, and both Rauschenberg and Johns are frequently cited as important forerunners of American Pop Art.

In 1966,

  • Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
  • Oral history interview with Robert Rauschenberg, 1965, Smithsonian Archives of American Art
  • Robert Rauschenberg in the National Gallery of Australia's Kenneth Tyler Collection
  • SFMOMA's Rauschenberg Research Project
  • Robert Rauschenberg at the Museum of Modern Art
  • Robert Rauschenberg biography on the New York Guggenheim Museum website.
  • Robert Rauschenberg at Gagosian Gallery
  • Current exhibitions on
  • Screening of Robert Rauschenberg's 1966 Film "Open Score" at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.
  • "OUR PICASSO?", Village Voice
  • 1997 Vanity Fair Profile
  • Art Quotations by Robert Rauschenberg - The Painter's Keys Resource of Art Quotations
  • Obituary
  • , exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, 2006Combines (1953-1964)Dossier : Robert Rauschenberg,
  • Cardboard VI from the Cardboard Series (1971)
  • Linoleum (After Robert Rauschenberg) Piece on Linoleum and Erased de Kooning Drawing at Triple Canopy (online magazine)

External links

  • Busch, Julia M., A Decade of Sculpture: the New Media in the 1960s (The Art Alliance Press: Philadelphia; Associated University Presses: London, 1974) ISBN 0-87982-007-1, ISBN 978-0-87982-007-7.
  • Marika Herskovic, New York School Abstract Expressionists Artists Choice by Artists, (New York School Press, 2000.) ISBN 0-9677994-0-6. p. 8; p. 32; p. 38; p. 294-297.
  • Fugelso, Karl. "Robert Rauschenberg's Inferno Illuminations." In: Postmodern Medievalisms. Ed. Richard Utz and Jesse G. Swan (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004). pp. 47–66.
  • Sweeney, Louise M. "Rauschenberg's Worldwide Quest for Art and Ideas," The Christian Science Monitor, May 20, 1991.

Further reading

  1. ^ Marlena Donohue (November 28, 1997). "Rauschenberg's Signature on the Century".  
  2. ^ """Robert Rauschenberg in "The Century's 25 Most Influential Artists.  
  3. ^ Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts
  4. ^ "Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts 1995". Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Franklin Bowles Galleries. "Robert Rauschenberg". Significantly, given his use of print media imagery, he was also the first living American artist to be featured by  
  6. ^ American Art Great Robert Rauschenberg Dies at 82 | | The Ledger | Lakeland, FL
  7. ^ Rauschenberg's Roots, Theind, 2005
  8. ^ Knight, Christopher (May 14, 2008). "He led the way to Pop Art". Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^ a b The Great Permitter - Time
  10. ^ Museum of the Gulf Coast - Robert Rauschenberg
  11. ^ a b c d Patricia Burstein (May 19, 1980), In His Art and Life, Robert Rauschenberg Is a Man Who Steers His Own Daring Course People.
  12. ^ Kotz, Mary Lynn (2004). Rauschenberg: Art and Life. New York City:  
  13. ^ "Rauschenberg: Art and Life". Publishers Weekly. Rauschenberg, enfant terrible of American modernism in the 1950s and 1960s, is now an ambassador for global good will. ROCI (Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange), an organization he founded in 1984, sponsors art exhibits and fosters cross-cultural collaborations with the aim of promoting world peace.
    "… his boyhood escape from the conformity of the oil town of Port Arthur, Texas, his formative years at Black Mountain College, his political activism in the service of civil rights and peace, and above all, his restless experimentation blurring the boundaries of painting, sculpture, photography, and printmaking.
    "… the varied facets of Rauschenberg's output, including his color drawings for Dante's Inferno, his sets for  
  14. ^ "bauhaus-archiv museum für gestaltung: startseite". Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  15. ^ a b Michael Kimmelman (May 14, 2008). "Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist, Dies at 82". New York Times. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  16. ^ Walter Hopps, Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950's, ISBN 0-940619-07-5
  17. ^ [4] Time magazine online, The Most Living Artist retrieved July 27, 2009
  18. ^ [5] Richard Wood Massi, Captain Cook's first voyage: an Interview with Morton Feldman retrieved July 27, 2009
  20. ^ a b Kimmelman, Michael (May 13, 2008). "Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist, Dies at 82". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-14. Robert Rauschenberg, the irrepressibly prolific American artist who time and again reshaped art in the 20th century, died on a Monday night at his home on Captiva Island, Fla. He was 82. 
  21. ^ Artist Robert Rauschenberg Dead at 82, Voice of America
  22. ^ a b Ella Nayor,"The Pine Island Eagle, "Bob Rauschenberg, art giant, dead at 82", May 13, 2008
  23. ^ Roberta Smith (1995-02-10). "Art in Review". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  24. ^ a b John Richardson (September 1997), Rauschenberg’s Epic Vision Vanity Fair.
  25. ^ Holland Cotter (June 28, 2012), Robert Rauschenberg: ‘North African Collages and Scatole Personali, c. 1952’ New York Times.
  26. ^ "Explore Modern Art | Multimedia | Interactive Features | Robert Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning Drawing". SFMOMA. Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  27. ^ a b Robert Rauschenberg Dead at 82, Blouinartinfo
  28. ^ Kristine Stiles & Peter Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings (Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by Kristine Stiles) University of California Press 2012, p. 453
  29. ^  
  30. ^ "Signs of the Times: Robert Rauschenberg’s America".  
  31. ^ a b c d Robert Rauschenberg Guggenheim Collection.
  32. ^ a b "Pop art - Rauschenberg - Untitled (Red Painting)". Guggenheim Collection. Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  33. ^ Cage, John (1961). Silence. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. p. 102. 
  34. ^ "Robert Rauschenberg - Monogram". Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  35. ^ The Daily Telegraph
  36. ^ Alastair Macaulay (May 14, 2008), Rauschenberg and Dance, Partners for Life New York Times
  37. ^ Richard Lacayo (May 15, 2008), Robert Rauschenberg: The Wild and Crazy Guy Time.
  38. ^ John Richardson (September 1997), Rauschenberg’s Epic Vision Vanity Fair.
  39. ^ The New York Times, May 14, 1951,
  40. ^ Stuart Preston, New York Times, December 19, 1954
  41. ^ Willem de Kooning. "Gallery - The Charles Egan Gallery". The Art Story. Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  42. ^ Robert Rauschenberg Gagosian Gallery.
  43. ^ , retrieved December 16, 2008Guggenheim Museum Honors Late Artist Robert Rauschenberg With Photographic TributeArt Daily,
  44. ^ mutualart
  45. ^ Rauschenberg will names charitable causes, family
  46. ^ The Private Collection of Robert Rauschenberg, November 3 - December 23, 2011 Gagosian Gallery.
  47. ^ Cristina Ruiz (28 March 2012), Rauschenberg’s foundation could outspend Warhol’s The Art Newspaper.
  48. ^ Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight Against AIDS amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.
  49. ^ Michael McNay (13 May 2008), Obituary: Robert Rauschenberg The Guardian
  50. ^ Andrew Russeth (June 7, 2010), Ten Juicy Tales from the New Leo Castelli Biography, Blouartinfo
  51. ^ Carol Vogel (September 29, 2010), Pace Gallery to Represent de Kooning Estate New York Times
  52. ^ Robert Rauschenberg: Jammers, February 16 - March 28, 2013 Gagosian Gallery, London.
  53. ^ Carol Vogel (May 12, 2010), At Christie's, a $28.6 Million Bid Sets a Record for Johns New York Times.
  54. ^ Jori Finkel (February 6, 2014), Jori Finkel: Lessons of California’s droit de suite debacle The Art Newspaper.
  55. ^ Patricia Cohen (November 1, 2011), Artists File Lawsuits, Seeking Royalties New York Times.


In the early 1970s, Rauschenberg unsuccessfully lobbied U.S. Congress to pass a bill that would compensate artists when their work is resold. The artist later supported a state bill in California that did become law, the California Resale Royalty Act of 1976.[54] Rauschenberg took up his fight for artist resale royalties after the taxi baron Robert Scull sold part of his art collection in a 1973 auction, including Rauschenberg's 1958 painting Thaw that he had originally sold to Scull for $900 but brought $85,000 at an auction at Sotheby Parke Bernet in New York.[55]

Lobbying for artists' resale royalties

[53], New York.Christie's for $11 million at Michael Crichton (1960‑61), one of Rauschenberg's "Combines", originally estimated at $6 million to $9 million, was bought from the collection of Studio Painting In 2010 [52], a dealership that had first exhibited the artist's work in 1986.Gagosian Gallery it moved to [51] before, in May 2010,Pace Gallery The Rauschenberg estate was long handled by [50] Robert Rauschenberg had his first solo show in 1951, at the

Art market

In 2000, Rauschenberg was honored with amfAR’s Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight Against AIDS.[48]

The RRF today owns many works by Rauschenberg from every period of his career. In 2011, the foundation, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery, presented "The Private Collection of Robert Rauschenberg", selections from Rauschenberg's personal art collection; proceeds from the collection helped fund the endowment established for the foundation's philanthropic activities.[46] Also in 2011, the foundation launched its "Artist as Activist" print project and invited Shepard Fairey to focus on an issue of his choice. The editioned work he made was sold to raise funds for the Coalition for the Homeless.[47] The RRF artist residency takes place at the late artist's property in Captiva Island, Florida. The foundation also maintains the 19th Street Project Space in New York.

In 1990, Rauschenberg created the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (RRF) to promote awareness of the causes he cared about, such as world peace, the environment and humanitarian issues. He also set up Change, Inc., to award one-time grants of up to $1,000 to visual artists based on financial need. Rauschenberg's will, filed in Probate Court on October 9, 2008, named his charitable foundation as a major beneficiary, along with Darryl Pottorf, Christopher Rauschenberg, Begneaud, his nephew Byron Richard Begneaud, and Susan Weil Kirschenbaum. The amounts to be given to the beneficiaries were not named, but the estate is "worth millions", said Pottorf, who is also executor of the estate.[45]

Already in 1984, Rauschenberg announced his Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) at the United Nations. This would culminate in a seven-year, ten-country tour to encourage "world peace and understanding", through Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Beijing, Lhasa (Tibet), Japan, Cuba, Soviet Union, Berlin, and Malaysia in which he left a piece of art, and was influenced by the cultures he visited. Paintings, often on reflective surfaces, as well as drawings, photographs, assemblages and other multimedia were produced, inspired by these surroundings, and this was considered some of his strongest works. The ROCI venture, supported by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., went on view in 1991.


Further exhibitions include: 5 Decades of Printmaking, Leslie Sacks Contemporary (2012); Robert Rauschenberg: Jammers, Gagosian Gallery, London (2013); Robert Rauschenberg: Hoarfrost Editions, Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl (2104); Robert Rauschenberg: The Fulton Street Studio, 1953–54, Craig F. Starr Associates (2014); Collecting and Connecting, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (2014); A Visual Lexicon, Leo Castelli Gallery (2014); Robert Rauschenberg: Works on Metal, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills (2014).[44]

A memorial exhibition of Rauschenberg's photographs opened October 22, 2008, (on the occasion of what would have been his 83rd birthday) at the Guggenheim Museum.[43]

Rauschenberg had his first career retrospective, organized by the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, through 2007); at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (2009; traveled to the Tinguely Museum, Basel, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese, through 2010); and Botanical Vaudeville at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (2011).[42]

In 1951 Rauschenberg had his first one-man show at the Betty Parsons Gallery[39] and in 1954 had a second one-man show at the Charles Egan Gallery.[40] In 1955, at the Charles Egan Gallery, Rauschenberg showed Bed (1955), one of his first and certainly most famous Combines.[41]


In 1983, he won a Grammy Award for his album design of Talking Heads' album Speaking in Tongues.[37] In 1986 Rauschenberg was commissioned by BMW to paint a full size BMW 635 CSi for the sixth installment of the famed BMW Art Car Project. Rauschenberg's contribution was the first to include the wheels in the project, as well as incorporating previous works of art into the design. In 1998, the Vatican commissioned (and later refused)[31] a work by Rauschenberg based on the Apocalypse to commemorate Pio of Pietrelcina, the controversial Franciscan priest who died in 1968 and who is revered for having had stigmata and a saintly aura, at Renzo Piano's Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church in Foggia, Italy.[38]

In 1965, when Life magazine commissioned him to visualize a modern Inferno, he did not hesitate to vent his rage at the Vietnam War and a whole range of horrors, including racial violence, neo-Nazism, political assassinations, and ecological disaster.[24] On December 30, 1979 the Miami Herald printed 650,000 Rauschenbergs as the cover of its Sunday magazine, Tropic. In essence an original lithograph, it showed images of south Florida. The artist signed 150 of them.[11]


From the early 1950s until 2007 Rauschenberg designed for dance. He began designing sets and costumes for Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Trisha Brown and for his own productions.[20] In the 1960s he was involved in the radical dance-theater experiments at and around Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village and was close to Cunningham-connected experimentalists like Carolyn Brown, Viola Farber, and Steve Paxton; he even choreographed himself. Rauschenberg's full-time connection to the Cunningham company ended with its 1964 world tour.[36] In 1977 Rauschenberg, Cunningham, and Cage reconnected as collaborators for the first time in 13 years, when the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, New York, performed Travelogue (1977), for which Rauschenberg contributed the costume and set designs.[31]

Performance and dance

Critics originally viewed the Combines in terms of the formal aspects of art, shape, color, texture, and the composition and arrangement of these. This 1960s view has changed over time so that more recently critics and art historians see the Combines as carrying coded messages difficult to decipher because there is no apparent order to the presentation of the objects.

His transitional pieces that led to the creation of Combines were Charlene (1954) and Collection (1954) where he combined collage technique and started to incorporate objects such as scarves, comic strips, and faux architectural cornice pieces. Considered one of the first of the Combines, Bed (1955) was created by dripping red paint across a quilt. The quilt was later stretched and displayed as a work of art. Some critics according to The Daily Telegraph considered the work to be a symbol for violence and rape.[35]

Rauschenberg's comment concerning the gap between art and life can be seen as a statement which provides the departure point for an understanding of his contributions as an artist. In particular his series of works which he called Combines served as instances in which the delineated boundaries between art and sculpture were broken down so that both were present in a single work of art. Technically "Combines" refers to Rauschenberg's work from 1954 to 1962, but the artist had begun collaging newsprint and photographic materials in his work and the impetus to combine both painting materials and everyday objects such as clothing, urban debris, and taxidermied animals such as in Monogram[34] continued throughout his artistic life.

Rauschenberg picked up trash and found objects that interested him on the streets of New York City and brought these back to his studio where they could become integrated into his work. He claimed he "wanted something other than what I could make myself and I wanted to use the surprise and the collectiveness and the generosity of finding surprises. And if it wasn't a surprise at first, by the time I got through with it, it was. So the object itself was changed by its context and therefore it became a new thing."[27]


In 1951 Rauschenberg created his "White Paintings," in the tradition of [32]

Robert Rauschenberg, untitled "combine," 1963.

The White Paintings, Black Paintings, and Red Paintings

As of 2003 he worked from his home and studio in Captiva, Florida. His first project on Captiva Island was a 16.5-meter-long silkscreen print called Currents (1970), made with newspapers from the first two months of the year, followed by Cardboards (1970–71) and Early Egyptians (1973–74), the latter of which is a series of wall reliefs and sculptures constructed from used boxes. He also printed on textiles using his solvent-transfer technique to make the Hoarfrosts (1974–76) and Spreads (1975–82), and in the Jammers (1975–76), created a series of colorful silk wall and floor works. Urban Bourbons (1988–95) focused on different methods of transferring images onto a variety of reflective metals, such as steel and aluminum. In addition, throughout the 1990s, Rauschenberg continued to utilize new materials while still working with more rudimentary techniques, such as wet fresco, as in the Arcadian Retreat (1996) series, and the transfer of images by hand, as in the Anagrams (1995–2000). As part of his engagement with the latest technological innovations, he began making digital Iris prints and using biodegradable vegetable dyes in his transfer processes, underscoring his commitment to caring for the environment.[31]

In 1969, NASA invited Rauschenberg to witness the launch of Apollo 11. In response to this landmark event, Rauschenberg created his Stoned Moon Series of lithographs. This involved combining diagrams and other images from NASA's archives with photographs from various media outlets, as well as with his own work.[29][30]


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