Who’s the best? Art Contest in a Koreatown Mall

“A Brighter Future” – that’s the topic assigned by Korean bank BBCN, who sponsor the national baseball team and also this student art contest. The winners and honorees were displayed in my local mall, the Galleria. I wandered in there late at night while killing 15 minutes before an appointment for a foot massage.

It happened to be a time when I was thinking a lot about winners and losers, and not feeling like much of a winner. What’s great about what I saw is that I realized that the judges are crazy. The winners deserve their prizes, but that doesn’t mean the “losers” don’t deserve to win as much or more.

This got me to thinking that you can’t make good art if you do it for the sake of approval, and not for the sake of passion. I recently saw a film that cost about $2 million to make. The filmmakers stated up front that they wanted to make a commercial film. Everything about it screamed manipulation, right down to the fact that the music was like an action movie trailer soundtrack looped for about 90 minutes. Watching it, I felt dirty and annoyed. What a waste of money and all the participants’ talent. No, you don’t make art “for yourself”. It needs to be seen. But you also don’t cynically make it to score points, or it will suck.

With that, you be the judges.

I had the gallery mostly to myself.

I had the gallery mostly to myself.

I like this one. It's very teenaged - like the kid had to conform to the "Bright Future" thing but was in hormonal mood on the day.

I like this one. It’s very teenaged – like the kid had to conform to the “Bright Future” thing but was in hormonal mood on the day.

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A prize winner. I like it, but it is feels mostly decorative and doesn’t move me much. I predict this artist could probably make a living, though, unlike most, as nobody wants to hang trauma on their walls.

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This is really cool. I love the speeding devil-bull. By Heather Choi. Title is in Korean.

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Again, lovely for a lounge. Not sure why it’s a winner but I like it. Ashly Haine, “Italy Trip”

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I think this is brilliant. I love the sense of perspective, the choice of angle, the sky POV and the family of birds hanging out right there with her. This should have won a prize. Can’t read the artist’s name but the title is “Helping Hands”

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I picked out this one because it reminds me of the kinds of things my brother used to draw as a kid. He was really talented but went into Medicine, leaving me to flounder around in the art world. Andrew Kim’s “Energetic Crane”.

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Hilarious – a protest against the horrors of homework. I remember feeling like that, like I’d die if I had to do my maths problems. I’d avoid it until 10pm every time. Of course, not quite suitable for BBCN bank’s yay the future theme. by Theresa Oh. Can’t read the title. “… Camp”

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This being a school art contest, I saw a lot of eyes, hair, and clocks. Being a kid is difficult as you get older. You are not free, but you have all this pressure on you. People who feel their school years were the best of their lives puzzle me. I always liked learning but institutions blow. Can’t read the title or artist name… sorry.

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This is awesome. So many stories in this, like a memory of riding the bus, or of one day around town. Again unfortunately the title and artist name are blurred!

A playground picture. I like it a lot.

A playground picture. I like it a lot.

Sweet. A self portrait.

Sweet. A self portrait.

A prize winner. I am surprised this one. It is interesting, but not really on-message. It reminds me of Kentridge or Jane Alexander. Can't read the text.

A prize winner. I am surprised this one. It is interesting, but not really on-message. It reminds me of Kentridge or Jane Alexander. Can’t read the text.

I think the overhead is fun. A portrait of a life that seems crammed with possibilities.

I think the overhead is fun. A portrait of a life that seems crammed with possibilities.

The title of this is something like "families reunited" and I suspect it is to do with North/South Korea. I loved it and I think it should have won something.

The title of this is something like “families reunited” and I suspect it is to do with North/South Korea. I loved it and I think it should have won something.

Hilarious. That french bread looks like a you know what.

Hilarious. That french bread looks like a you know what. And the dude on the stomach seems really surprised by how big it is. I don’t think this was the artist’s intention. But that’s another thing about art – you can’t control what you make, entirely.

Joyce Yo, "Drowning without Soul". Weird. I don't know if I get it. Is it about prostitution?

Joyce Yo, “Drowning without Soul”. Weird. I don’t know if I get it. Is it about prostitution?

So cool. A girly giant lizard.

So cool. A girly giant lizard.

While I was looking at this, a random guy came up to me and asked "Is that your daughter's picture?" I was really insulted at the time, because it looks like a portrait of an addict mother. Why do strangers think it's okay to ask you personal questions like that? Then again, what kind of weirdo wanders around an empty mall on a Saturday night.

While I was looking at this, a random guy came up to me and asked “Is that your daughter’s picture?” I was really insulted at the time, because it looks like a portrait of an addict mother. Why do strangers think it’s okay to ask you personal questions like that? Then again, what kind of weirdo wanders around an empty mall on a Saturday night.

The eye thing again. There were a lot of them.

The eye thing again. There were a lot of them. This seems like a portrait of a talker. Or is it a lonely person watching a group of friends and wishing they could be there, with them?

This picture is so vary LA - "Urbanization of Sophistication" by Erica Lee. I love it.

This picture is so vary LA – “Urbanization of Sophistication” by Erica Lee. I love it.

Jennifer Bae "Movie Theater" captures a moment from Frozen, which the Sound Designer on my thesis film, Christine Hals, worked on. I love this because it captures the magic of movies as a child, the way they fill your head and your heart.

Jennifer Bae “Movie Theater” captures a moment from Frozen, which the Music Composer on my thesis film, Christine Hals, worked on. I love this because it captures the magic of movies as a child, the way they fill your head and your heart.

Cell phone age art. All those smileys seem to be chattering, overwhelmingly and annoyingly happy. Not sure if that's what Kyle Son meant by "Smart Phone with Emoties".

Cell phone age art. All those smileys seem to be chattering, overwhelmingly and annoyingly happy. Not sure if that’s what Kyle Son meant by “Smart Phone with Emoties”.

There's a singer like this on a hundred stages like this in LA right now. The color and style reminds me of Kandinsky. Allen Manjae Chun "If I were a singer".

There’s a singer like this on a hundred stages like this in LA right now. The color and style reminds me of Kandinsky. Allen Manjae Chun “If I were a singer”.

Another awesome teenage self portrait by Scarlett Chang. I love the energy of this picture and I would probably have given it a prize.

Another awesome teenage self portrait by Scarlett Chang. I love the energy of this picture and I would probably have given it a prize.

Earnest, interesting. Not really sure about it. Well executed though, and the bank note probably helped make it a winner.

Earnest, interesting. Not really sure about it. Well executed though, and the bank note probably helped make it a winner.

"Face Painting at a Korea Party" - the colors in this remind me so much of the pictures sold at traffic lights in SA. By Jaimie Yoon.

“Face Painting at a Korea Party” – the colors in this remind me so much of the pictures sold at traffic lights in SA. By Jaimie Yoon.

This by Paul Seo won a judges award.

This by Paul Seo won a judges award.

So you see what I mean. They’re all lovely – I photographed all the winners and then all the ones I thought were interesting. I enjoyed this little exhibition easily as much as any I’ve seen in a famous museum. I wonder where these kids – some of whom are six years old now – will be in 20 years. Who knows, they might be famous film-makers, artists, animators or photographers. I hope they are happy, whatever the future holds.

 

 

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