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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. 

HappyHappy2

-- Suzanne Muchnic

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

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

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