Something Beautiful:
Reframing La Colección

Diógenes Ballester - Madama of the Shells

Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección is El Museo del Barrio’s most ambitious presentation of its unique, complex, and culturally diverse permanent collection in over two decades. Organized by Rodrigo Moura, Chief Curator; Susanna V. Temkin, Curator; and Lee Sessions, Permanent Collection Associate Curator, the exhibition will present approximately 500 artworks, including new acquisitions and artist commissions, through rotating displays over the course of one year. Something Beautiful cuts across traditional chronological, geographic, and media-specific categories, reconsidering the Collection through new interdisciplinary approaches rooted in El Museo del Barrio’s foundational history and legacy. This forward-thinking model focuses on the contribution of Amerindian, African, and European cultures as the basis of visual production in the Americas and the Caribbean.

The first rotation of Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección is organized in eight sections plus seven artist spotlights. Themes and motifs reappear across sections to create a larger conversation throughout the exhibition.  Sections include: Ocama Aracoel: Taíno spirits and forms and their influence on the Nuyorican art movement; Cosmic Visions: Indigenous and non-indigenous artists evoking Amerindian languages, landscapes, and other cultural references; First Impressions: Focusing on early acquisitions and the graphic portfolio in Puerto Rican printmaking; El Barrio: Different facets of life in East Harlem and other Barrios in New York, especially around the stoop, the sidewalk, and the bodega; The Street Transforms: Artists’ and activists’ interventions in public space; Pathos, Hope, Glory:  Transhistorical portraits and self portraits of artists reflecting the diversity of the Latinx experience; Clothed/Unclothed:  Artworks that explore, exaggerate, and deconstruct what it means to be male, female, neither, or both; and Abstraccionistas: The protagonism of women in abstract art, matrilinear traditions, opticalities and the framing of reality through abstraction.

Artist spotlights will feature the works of Jorge Soto Sánchez (1947 New York, NY – 1987 White River Junction, VT); Alejandro Diaz (b. 1963, San Antonio, TX; lives in New York, NY); Papo Colo (b. 1947, Puerta de Tierra, Puerto Rico; lives between New York, NY and El Yunque, Puerto Rico); Antonio Lopez (1943, Utuado, Puerto Rico – 1987, Thousand Oaks, CA); and Myrna Baez (1931, Santurce, Puerto Rico – 2018, Hato Ray, Puerto Rico).

The second rotation of Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección is organized in nine sections plus four artist spotlights. Themes and motifs reappear across sections to create a larger conversation throughout the exhibition. Sections include: Afro-diasporic Modernities bringing together artists working in the African diaspora in the Americas and centers spiritual and religious practices such as Candomblé, Umbanda, Vodou, and Santería; Figureheads explores the use of political iconography as a key visual strategy in artistic languages and political movements throughout the Americas, and especially in advocacy for Puerto Rican independence; Material Construction showcases artists’ use of unconventional materials sourced from the street that speak to conditions of precarity, innovation, and autonomy in urban life; Así es la Vida borrows its title from the hit anthem by Boricua rap duo The Latin Empire, celebrating the contributions of Puerto Rican and Latinx artists to New York’s urban culture and street art; Colors, Names contends with troubling histories of classifying individuals based on the color of their skin and ethnic background and how this history continues to impact our perception of race today; Tropical Extraction examines natural resource extraction in Latin America and the Caribbean, and illustrates how landscape, still-life, and other traditional artistic genres historically naturalized the commodification of the region for foreign consumption; Arpilleras explores embroidered fabric artworks created under military dictatorship in Chile and how this textile-based tradition came to symbolize resistance to political oppression; Craft Crossroads displays works by artists who employ a wide range of craft techniques to challenge hierarchies and emphasize the importance of materials and techniques previously overlooked by the mainstream art world; and Ocama Aracoel, translating as a call to the ancestors in the Taíno language, remains on view from the first rotation of the exhibition. It emphasizes the core importance of Taíno culture for El Museo by pairing ancestral Taíno forms from the Caribbean with artwork by Nuyorican artists. In early 2024, this section will be supplemented with a new artist commission, entitled Guatu Nakan (“In the middle of the fire”), by Jorge González (b. 1981, San Juan, Puerto Rico; lives in San Juan) and a network of collaborators. See list of participating artists.

Artist spotlights will feature the works of Edgardo Giménez (b. 1942, Santa Fe, Argentina; lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina), who advanced Pop Art in Argentina during the 1960s and 1970s through his posters and design store Fuera de Caja [Out of the Box]; Sophie Rivera (b. 1938, The Bronx, NY – 2021, The Bronx) who traversed New York City’s boroughs taking photographs of its people and places, including nearly abstract images of the city and its debris; Pepón Osorio (b. 1955, Santurce, Puerto Rico; lives in Philadelphia, PA) featuring La cama, an installation that typifies the artist’s aesthetics of excess and references cultural rituals and the dynamics of public and private spaces that are of special significance to his fellow Puerto Ricans; and Jaime Davidovich (b. 1936, Buenos Aires, Argentina – 2016, New York, NY), whose work encompasses the many strategies the artist developed as a member of New York’s downtown experimental art scene who including his early adoption of public access TV as a venue for avant-garde performance.

Currently on view Glendalys Medina (b. 1979 Ponce, Puerto Rico) was commissioned to create a new artwork reflecting and responding to Something Beautiful. Composed of a sculpture and new site-specific intervention, Medina’s Cohoba invites viewers into the cohoba ceremony, the spiritual center of Taíno life. As a diasporic Nuyorican artist based in East Harlem, Medina has repeatedly returned to how knowledge is transmitted and remixed and how social structures can empower individuals.

On the occasion of Something Beautiful, an accompanying publication drawing from the contributions of 45 invited speakers introduces new expertise about the Collection and its future. Published as a dialogic mosaic, the publication includes excerpted reflections about El Museo’s role in institutional ecosystems. Select contributors include: Beverly Adams, Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Marcela Guerrero, Gala Porras-Kim, Yasmin Ramírez, Taína Travierso, Adriana Zavala, and Julian Zugazagoitia, among others.

Something Beautiful: Reframing La Coleccion is made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, with additional support provided by Tony Bechara. Public support provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional Permanent Collection funding provided by The Mellon Foundation and The Getty Foundation.

MI BARRIO: Memories of Home

In celebration of El Museo del Barrio’s 50th anniversary, we have partnered with Nuevayorkinos, a digital visual archive dedicated to New York City’s Latinx population. The collaboration aims to highlight the long-standing presence and cultural contributions of Latinx communities in our home of El Barrio (East Harlem). In the summer of 2019, we co-hosted a number of pop-up installations at El Museo and issued an open call, asking visitors to submit images and videos of Latinx life in El Barrio from 1969 to 2005.

We are delighted to present “#MIBARRIO: Memories of Home,” a family album that celebrates our personal and shared histories in this neighborhood. This installation reminds us of the importance of heritage and the many ways that Latinx people have enriched the cultural fabric of New York City. In the midst of our barrios and communities facing socio-economic changes and displacement, this collaboration is an important reminder of our roles as advocates and guardians of our culture. We exist and our histories matter.

Pa’lante!

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Para celebrar el 50 Aniversario del Museo del Barrio, nos hemos asociado con Nuevayorkinos, un archivo visual digital dedicado a la población Latinx de la ciudad de Nueva York. La colaboración tiene como objetivo destacar la presencia y las contribuciones culturales de las comunidades Latinx desde hace numerosas décadas en nuestro hogar El Barrio (East Harlem). En el verano 2019, organizamos varias instalaciones en El Museo y lanzamos una convocatoria abierta, pidiendo a los visitantes que enviaran fotos y videos de la vida latina en El Barrio desde 1969 hasta 2005.

Estamos encantados de presentar “#MIBARRIO: Memories of Home,” un álbum familiar que celebra nuestras historias personales y compartidas en este vecindario. Esta instalación nos recuerda la importancia del patrimonio y las muchas formas en que las personas Latinx han enriquecido el tejido cultural de la ciudad de Nueva York. En medio de nuestros barrios y comunidades que enfrentan cambios y desplazamientos socioeconómicos, esta colaboración es un importante recordatorio del rol que tenemos como defensores y guardianes de nuestra cultura. Existimos y nuestras historias importan.

Pa’lante!

Picking Up the Pieces: An intimate view of life post-María

Picking Up the Pieces is an intimate look at life post-Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, and the unfortunate “new normal” of its people. Comprised of drawings, installations, and photographs that reflect unforgettable moments experienced by artist Adrián Viajero Román’s travels throughout the island, the installation creates portraits of individual lives profoundly touched by trauma and tragedy, and resilience.

Picking Up the Pieces es una mirada intima a la vida en Puerto Rico después del paso de Huracán Maria, y la desafortunada nueva vida de su gente. Compuesto de dibujos, instalaciones, y fotografías que reflejan los inolvidable momentos vividos por el artista Adrian Viajero Roman durante sus viajes a la isla, la instalación crea retratos de la vidas individuales profundamente afectada por trauma, tragedia, y resistencia.

Adrian Roman, also known as Viajero, was born in New York City of Puerto Rican descent. Throughout his travels to the Caribbean, Central America, Africa, and a number of cities across the United States, he has exposed himself to a variety of cultures that have influenced his work. Viajero is an artist resident of the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn New York, and works closely with the Caribbean Cultural Center African Disapora Institute in New York City. In 2012, he exhibited at Museo de Arte de Caguas, Puerto Rico as part of the group show AFROLATINOS, which was awarded Best Exhibit 2012 by International Association of Art Critics. Viajero was most recently nominated for the Joan Mitchell Foundation grant for sculpture. He has exhibited in solo and group shows in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Dreaming up North: Children on the Move Across the Americas

Dreaming up North: Children on the Move Across the Americas is a special exhibition in honor of Migration at El Museo del Barrio, revolving around testimonies (in graphic, oral and written form) of immigrant children moving across the Americas. Collected by a team of six anthropologists and three photographers, each working separately, the exhibition depicts migrant children from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. Dreaming up North draws upon interviews and workshops developed in humanitarian shelters, detention centers and transit areas within children’s hometowns and their new homes in the United States. Themes covered include: Mexico’s internal child migration and repatriation, transnational child migration from as far as Ecuador, the daily lives of migrant children in the US, and children’s future migration plans.

Dreaming up North aims to highlight the migrant children experience, in order to foster opportunities to understand this transnational phenomenon through their own voices and memories. By doing this we hope to contribute to a more complex and nuanced view of child migration. Such a view recognizes the tremendous suffering, stress, and danger that migrant children experience, but also illustrates that migrant children are not mere victims, being moved around by criminals or feckless parents. Instead, it argues that their mobility is also a result of the decisions and actions children take in order to shape their own futures in the face of failed national policies, insufficient international mechanisms of support and growing global inequality. When children migrate, they are claiming a human right, they are going home to their parents after many years apart, they are looking for an income that will provide their siblings with the opportunities they didn’t have, they are resisting gangs and drug cartels’ strategies of fear and domination. They are challenging our understanding of childhood, innocence, dependency, agency, citizenship, geography and time. They are asking us to reshape our conventional perceptions to be able to create a better, more understanding world, where borders aren’t walls that keep us apart, but spaces for new possibilities and learning.

EXHIBITION CREDITS

Dreaming up North: Children on the Move Across the Americas is presented by El Museo del Barrio, in collaboration with Colectiva Infancias, and a network of social anthropologists and photographers.

Coordination and assembly: Valentina Glockner | Script and museography: Soledad Álvarez and Valentina Glockner | Research: Ana Luz Minera, Cinthya Santos, Sandra Guillot, Sarah Gallo, Soledad Álvarez Velasco, Tamara Segura, Valentina Glockner | Photographic documentation: Cinthya Santos, Katie Orlinsky, Luis Enrique Aguilar, Valentina Glockner | Map design: Elvira Morán, with information from Soledad Álvarez, Tamara Segura, Valentina Glockner | Comics: Javier Beverido

In honor and thanks to the knowledge and trust of: Migrant children and adolescents working in agricultural fields in Chihuahua, Morelos and Michoacán, held at the Tapachula detention center in Chiapas, in transit at the shelters of Ixtepec, Oaxaca and Tenosique, Tabasco, and returned to the home communities of their families in Puebla, Mexico.

The exhibition is based on the experience of children and adolescents from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador and the United States. The testimonies exposed are transcriptions of the narratives obtained during the research work and photographic documentation.

videoarte: Elena Wen

This mini solo exhibition features a series of animated film works that the artist created between 2005 and 2013. Urban scenes, colorful landscapes, gossipy or nonsensical conversations, science fiction-inspired scenes, and statistics all make an appearance among Elena’s charming animations. No single film is longer than three minutes, packing a great deal of playful significance into a mini epic.

Elena Wen was born in Taiwan, and moved to Costa Rica with her family when she was 3 years old. Wen studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and became an illustrator of limited edition art books that are now in the library collections of various institutions such as San Francisco MOMA, Getty Research Institute, Stanford and other university archives. Continuing her education in digital media at Parsons School of Design offered, the artist’s drawings became animation installations. She has exhibited at the A.I.R. Gallery, Flux Factory, and Secret Project Robot in NYC; at Lumen Eclipse in Harvard Square, Boston; and on the Great Wall of Oakland in California. She also in the Costa Rica Biennial in 2009, where her work was selected for the Central America Biennial exhibition (Bienal del Istmo Centroamericano) also in 2009. Her work was included in the 2011 bienal at El Museo del Barrio, The Street Files.

videoarte | Rotative Repository of Latin American Video Art: Mono Canal

This exhibition explores the work of Latin American video artists and their different approaches to the single-channel format. The work on display ranges from pieces inspired by documentary or visual anthropology to others that eschew narrative structure for an approach more akin to visual poetry or performance. Curated by Hernan Rivera Luque.

The exhibited artists represent the strongest trends in the Latin American video art tradition. Their work fully embrace contemporary production techniques and conceptual approaches. Together they exemplify the multicultural discourse and critical thinking that have always been present in the complex identity of the Latin American countries, with incisive commentary on the historic migrations and political changes of the region as well as on topics such as gender, identity, politics and power.

In an attempt to convey the vitality of contemporary Latin American video art, this exhibition presents the work of established artists alongside the most exciting work from the new generation of video artists.

Participating artists: Maricruz Alarcón, Francisca Benitez, Alberto Borea, Nat Castañeda, Javier Castro, Lionel Cruet, Marcos Chaves, Gianfranco Foschino, Ignacio Gatica, Eduardo Gil, Alfredo Jaar, Joiri Minaya, Iván Navarro, Crack Rodriguez and Margarita Sanchez

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Repositorio rotativo de video arte latinoamericano mono canal – Edición El Museo del Barrio
Esta exposición explora el trabajo de video artistas latinoamericanos y sus diferentes de aproximación al formato mono canal. El trabajo en exhibición abarca desde piezas inspiradas por lo documental o la antropología visual hasta otras que evitan la estructura narrativa por un enfoque más afín a la poesía visual o el performance.

Los artistas expuestos representan las tendencias más fuertes de la tradición latinoamericana de video arte. Sus obras abarcan plenamente las técnicas de producción y conceptualización contemporáneas. Juntos ejemplifican el discurso multicultural y el pensamiento crítico que siempre han estado presentes en la compleja identidad de los países latinoamericanos, con comentarios sobre las migraciones históricas y los cambios políticos de la región, así como sobre temas de género, identidad, política y poder.

En un intento por transmitir la vitalidad del videoarte latinoamericano contemporáneo, esta exposición presenta la obra de artistas establecidos junto a la obra de nuevas generaciones de video artistas.

Artistas participantes: Maricruz Alarcón, Francisca Benítez, Alberto Borea, Nat Castañeda, Javier Castro, Marcos Chaves, Gianfranco Foschino, Ignacio Gatica, Eduardo Gil, Alfredo Jaar, Joiri Minaya, Iván Navarro, Crack Rodríguez y Margarita Sánchez.

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unoxuno is a series of solo projects for contemporary art at El Museo del Barrio. They focus on a single work or installation by a single artist or collaborative group.

The curator would like to thank New Latin Wave Festival for their support on this project.

unoXuno: Hugo X. Bastidas: Historical Portraits

These portraits are about empowerment, equal rights and respect. I am not rewriting history but asking what if there was mutual respect and exchange instead of destruction, subjugation and opposition?

I have had concerns with people being unable, for one reason or another, to participate in our so-called high cultural experience. Art museums, midtown galleries, blue chip galleries, biennials, art fairs, and similar venues have a feeling of exclusivity and not by their own virtue or volition. Regardless of the reason, I felt that if I would reproduce my paintings onto vinyl, I could bring the work out to the neighborhood. Incorporating it into the visual vernacular on storefronts, sides of buildings, interiors, and other unexpected places, it would seem comfortable there and hopefully be appreciated as “ours.” Even if the artworks are copies and temporary, this outreach is in part about some of the same issues I address in my art: inclusion, fairness and liberties that are also concerns of the ordinary people living in neighborhoods across the metro area. – Hugo X. Bastidas

Works by the artist are displayed at various locations in East Harlem. Organized by the artist with El Museo del Barrio and the tireless assistance of Zugeiy Yepez and Suellisse Acevedo. Courtesy of the artist and Nohra Haime Gallery and generously hosted by our El Barrio partners:

Harleys Smoke Shack, 355 East 116th Street, New York, NY, 10029
El Nuevo Caridad, 2257 Second Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10029
Sandy, 2261 Second Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10035
El Tapatio, 209 East 116th Street, New York, N.Y., 10029
La Taqueria Del Barrio, 2327 First Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10035
Guajillo Mexican Kitchen, 2277 First Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10035
El Agave Deli and Grocery, 218 East 116th Street, New York, N.Y., 10029
ELN Corporation, 183 East 111th Street, New York, NY 10029
Pipo’s Mexican Restaurant, 166 East 118th Street #3, New York, NY 10035
Mexico Travel, 238 East 116th Street # 1, New York, NY 10029
Featured image: Detail of Hugo Bastidas, Maria Tallchief, 2015; oil on linen; 60 x 40 in; Courtesy of the Nohra Haime Gallery.

unoxuno is a series of solo projects for contemporary art at El Museo del Barrio. They focus on a single work or installation by a single artist or collaborative group. unoxuno presents the work of local artists in alternative public spaces at the museum, the lobby and El Café, for an entire year. Invited artists are asked to propose a work for these designated areas. Artists featured in the past in this series are COPE2 (b. 1968, South Bronx, New York) and Indie184 (b. 1980, Puerto Rico), Manuel Acevedo (b. 1964, Newark, New Jersey), and Sarah E. Zapata (b. 1988, Corpus Christi, Texas), Joiri Minaya (b. 1990, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), Ernest Concepcíon (b. 1978, Manila, Philippines), and Lina Puerta (b. Englewood, New Jersey).

unoxuno: Melissa Calderón

Self taught multimedia artist Melissa Calderón create bodies of conceptual work around themes exploring social and political landscapes; drawing upon historical and philosophical references of power, fragility and perception. She has exhibited her work at El Museo del Barrio, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Queens Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Portland Museum of Art, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Arsenal de la Puntilla and Galeria 20/20 in Puerto Rico, Art in Odd Places Festival, and SmackMellon among others. She has been included in such books as Frescos, 50 contemporary artists from Puerto Rico, Strange Material: Storytelling through Textile, and EMERGENCY INDEX VOL. 4 ‘s annual performance publication. Currently, she is a recipient of a NYC Percent for Art commission to be permanently installed in the South Bronx and is currently showing work at The Rockefeller Foundation in NYC and The African American Museum in Philadelphia. She is born and bred in the Bronx.

unoxuno is a series of solo projects for contemporary art at El Museo del Barrio. They focus on a single work or installation by a single artist or collaborative group. unoxuno presents the work of local artists in alternative public spaces at the museum, the lobby and El Café, for an entire year. Invited artists are asked to propose a work for these designated areas.

Artists featured in the past in this series are COPE2 (b. 1968, South Bronx, New York) and Indie184 (b. 1980, Puerto Rico), Manuel Acevedo (b. 1964, Newark, New Jersey), and Sarah E. Zapata (b. 1988, Corpus Christi, Texas), Joiri Minaya (b. 1990, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), Ernest Concepcíon (b. 1978, Manila, Philippines), and Lina Puerta (b. Englewood, New Jersey)

unoxuno: Miguel Trelles

Miguel Trelles is a Puerto Rican painter/printmaker actively engaged since 2006 in curating a yearly visual arts exhibition, Borimix, at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Trelles’ own chino-latino painting series recontextualizes classic Chinese painting along with Pre-Columbian and Latin American imagery. An adjunct professor of Studio Art in various colleges in New York sand elsewhere, Trelles holds a B.A. in Art History and Studio Art at Brown University and an M.F.A. (1995) from Hunter College. The work of Miguel Trelles has been exhibited in Rio de Janeiro, Lima, San Juan, Santo Domingo, Havana, Tegucigalpa, Buenos Aires, and Paris, among others. Trelles’ paintings have been acquired by several permanent collections such as those in El Museo del Barrio and Deutsche Bank in New York and in El Museo de Arte de Ponce and the Institue of Puerto Rican Culture in Puerto Rico.

unoxuno is a series of solo projects for contemporary art at El Museo del Barrio. They focus on a single work or installation by a single artist or collaborative group. unoxuno presents the work of local artists in alternative public spaces at the museum, the lobby and El Café, for an entire year. Invited artists are asked to propose a work for these designated areas.

Artists featured in the past in this series are COPE2 (b. 1968, South Bronx, New York) and Indie184 (b. 1980, Puerto Rico), Manuel Acevedo (b. 1964, Newark, New Jersey), and Sarah E. Zapata (b. 1988, Corpus Christi, Texas), Joiri Minaya (b. 1990, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), Ernest Concepcíon (b. 1978, Manila, Philippines), and Lina Puerta (b. Englewood, New Jersey).

a glyph, a tool, an icon: Beatríz Santiago Muñoz selects from El Museo’s Collections

El Museo has invited the featured artist, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, to mine El Museo’s collections of over 8,000 objects to select works that connect to her ideas, her films, her way of working and other narratives of symbolic importance.

She notes: Some of this work, such as the early films of Raphael Montañez Ortiz or the sculpture of Marcos Dimas, follows a line of thought from material and formal experimentation to mystical thought or vice-versa. Others look at the ways in which a place and a body is marked, mapped and drawn; from pipelines to petroglyphs. There are prints, mostly from the 70s and early 80s that play with simple icons: star, island map, scarab. They seem to me to be drawn from a language of abstraction that is a lot older and deeper than the 20th century.

Recently, I have made films that deal with the fraught relationship of politics to aesthetics and about the unspectacular nature of freedom, with Carlos Irizarry and Elizam Escobar respectively. Their work in the collection is very different from each other—one is the deeply personal work of the artist while in prison while the other’s raw material is the mediated political image.

Finally, there are the carved and shaped Taíno objects: spheres, petal-shaped hand axes, a cosmic twin amulet, pestles and phallic objects. We have no certainty about their use or their meaning, and yet we can hold them and wonder about the process of making them. Through the objects we may tenuously hold in our mind the metaphysics that gave birth to them.

El Museo del Barrio’s Women Artists Retrospective Series

In recognizing the historical exclusion of women from the art professions, which has directly contributed to an international museum culture predisposed to male artists, El Museo del Barrio is resolved to challenge this gender bias, within our means and within our walls, by organizing a retrospective or major survey of works by outstanding women artists—one in each fiscal year.

The surveys will span decades of an artist’s career, occupy the majority of the gallery space in the museum, and be accompanied by public programs and a book publication with new scholarship that positions and conveys the import of the artist’s contributions to the field.