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From 99-cent Only Store to LACMA, Korea-style

June 17, 2009 | 10:15 am

HappyHappy Why is that big bunch of colorful plastic stuff on the plaza at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art? Is it a Tupperware party gone awry? A 99-cent Only Store sidewalk sale?

Neither, but the second guess is close. The eye-popping assembly is "HappyHappy," an artwork by Choi Jeong-Hwa. The artist purchased his raw materials -- a slew of bright colored plastic bins, tubs, funnels, pitchers, strainers and bowls -- at the nearby 99-cent Only Store.

Choi, an internationally recognized figure known as the father of South Korea's Pop art movement, designed the piece as an introduction to "Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea," a major exhibition opening June 28 in LACMA's Broad Contemporary Art Museum. Visitors will be invited to walk through "HappyHappy" on their way to the show of installations, sculpture, drawings, animation and video art. 

A champion of recycling and inexpensive, mass-produced goods, Choi draws much of his inspiration from the daily lives of ordinary folks in South Korea. But for commissions far from home, he likes to gather materials close to the installation sites. 

The piece at LACMA was conceived a couple of years ago in a relatively small 

"chandelier" made for the theater at REDCAT in downtown L.A. For the greatly expanded, interactive version, Choi directed a team that made aesthetic sense of a sea of plastics in a cavernous space at LACMA West.  HappyHappy1 As the containers arrived at the museum, they were organized by color and shape and stacked on big tables and the floor.

Labels had to be removed from each piece and holes drilled through the centers of the containers so they could be strung on long, flexible wires, to be suspended from a framework in the center of the outdoor plaza.

"HappyHappy" as the artwork may appear, it's the product of a labor-intensive organization-and- assembly job.

Will Choi's work withstand crowds of visitors walking through the plastic columns, jostling them this way and that in search of photo ops? Time will tell, but he isn't worried.

"Your heart is my art," he said, repeating his mantra about public participation in his work. 


-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photo: Choi Jeong-Hwa with "HappyHappy." Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.

Photo: "HappyHappy" in the process of assembly. Credit: Michele Urton. 

Comments () | Archives (12)

Hellooooow !
whats the point ?
after the exhibition are these plastics gonna end up in LA landfills?
i thought we should avoid waste?


The Art World has finally lost it and shame on LACMA for putting up this garbage - " a champion of recycling and inexpensive, mass-produced goods." So what; plastics, tons of plastic passing for ART??? in the world we live in???

How can a true artist compete with this? What a bunch of nonsense by a bunch of clueless idiots.

the point is art and culture (and the support of which defines any great society/culture). i'm glad that you believe in taking care of the environment but surely you wouldn't suggest not publishing books because they use paper from trees or suggest eradicating film or theater because of the oil that is used to generate electricity to power theaters.

if you look past your environmental over reaction you might see that it might be the artist's intention to use these materials to raise issues and a conversation about mass production and oil products and waste and beauty. I'd be pretty sure that the artwork will end up being stored in between exhibitions, the way 90% of all artworks are.

I love it! As an artist myself, this raises many questions and challenges the American mainstream perception of what art is or is not.

This work is visually pleasing and it's also reminding us/me of the things that we take for granted or find comfort in. Like cheap starchy noodles with cheese, Kraft anyone?

It also reminds us/me of the comfort our convenience brings us in a consumer/throw away society. Do we recycle those things that give us comfort? Or do we toss them away when we're done with them? And why? Are we attached to those things that make us happy or comfortable? Why?
What is this attachment?

Is it the color? The shape? The use and function? How many of us use this stuff daily? How many 99 cent only stores are there? How many cultures are touched by this stuff? Do you avoid the 99 cent only stores because of your social class or status? Or do you have the courage to venture in and see what's there?

Can something so mundane as a plastic container hold beauty? Is beauty in the plastic of the beholder? Is it appropriate to burp your plastic after feeding it?

And this is only the surface of the mountain of questions Happy Happy seems to make one ponder...

What's different about what Jessica Stockholder did over 10 years ago--people need to continue to recycle materials but not ideas!


It's not as if the artist ordered these items to be produced solely for the creation of his piece. The stuff was already in the store, and would have ended up in a landfill somewhere anyway... better if it goes to someone's home or an office building, or into storage, or wherever such art goes. In the end, if even the artwork itself goes to the landfill, that's where this stuff was bound anyway. Don't blame the artist.

And don't bother asking the question, "So what; plastics, tons of plastic passing for ART??? in the world we live in???" The things that have passed for "art" thru the ages boggle the logical mind... But since when is art logical?


Tell us, please, what passes for art?

Crative art is what it has always been, the art academies avoiding a defintion like the plague, for financial reasons. So they can take any kid wth no talent or work ethic and give them a egree saying they are, for a price.

Defining humanity, exploring nature, searching for god. This has always been creative arts defintion. This stuff belongs in the childrens museum, its fun, but art is not about that, As Obama said, it is time to p[ut aside childish things, and tahts for YOU artistes. Its not about YOU, its about US.

No one cares about youe feelings, get over it, And waste in a time of limitations is decadence, and so

art collegia delenda et

Dear Aberrant,

To answer your question as simply as I can, NOT THIS.

To equate this work and others like it so prevelent in the art world these days, in its response to life or art history in the same way that you would equate it to the early modernist response to the previous century is absurd. This work required very little talent, skill or imagination whereas the work of the early modernist required bravery, great talent and leap of the imagination. It is always amazing to me the level of mediocraty people are willing to accept in the name of artistic expression.

"This work challenges you and the American mainstream perception of what art is or is not?" This work actually IS the mainstream. Duchampian academics, I feel sorry for you. Nothing to express, nothing to express it with.

Be well,

The people attacking this work because it's made of common plastic items are so far off-base it's laughable. All art is made of 'stuff'', whether it's plastic, paper, canvas, clay, etc., etc. What matters is how it's used. Check out Tara Donovan's works, for example.
(Aside to one D. Frazell - your 'definition' of art is as shaky as your spelling.)

Stupid, empty and has been done before.

I totally enjoyed it. I see why it is named Happy Happy.. that is exactly how I felt going through this 'jungle'!


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