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Monday, June 11, 2012

The Art of Luke Chueh with Luke Chueh: Interview, Review and Event Reminder

Here is an interview with the artist Luke Chueh as well as a review for his new book The Art of Luke Chueh Bearing the Unbearable, available on Amazon June 12th.

Bear in mind Mr. Chueh will have be signing his new book at Gallery Nucleus, details below.

Bearing the Unbearable Signing with Luke Chueh
Jun 16, 6:00PM - 9:00PM
Nucleus 210 East Main St, Alhambra CA 91801    
Artist Luke Chueh will be in the gallery celebrating the release of his first monograph publication.
A new limited edition exclusive print will be released at the signing.


Undeniably, if your a fan of Mr. Chueh you should pick up his new book without little recourse. His pieces of bears being beaten by themselves and dark jokes mixed with cute animals is also great to be perused on any coffee table. What's better than just a book of his work is the short timeline it follows going through where Luke was in his point in his career told by some of LA's best galleries and his friends. I would have wanted more insight into his work, but it all being in the book, page for page let's the reader enjoy it. You"ll see pages of broken bears, bloody hares and monkeys with hats.

If you take the time to absorb each piece you'll get the dark joke and maybe ponder if maybe it's one of your sins or the artists. From something so cute as a white bear, hmm... maybe a Gloomy Bear X Luke Chueh piece should happen, pink and white mix well. Anyway, as something as cute as a cartoon like bear graces pages so does something horrific happening to it. All in bigger format book to fully enjoy pieces, with many taking up whole pages to fully engross and gross you out. There's quite a lot of blood and defecation, but all in a sense of dark humor. Titan the publisher did a great job letting the novice or fan of Luke's get full dosed in pages of animal death and cruelty, most of the time self-inflicted.


Jonathan: Hey Luke, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I've seen your work at so many events in LA, at Munky King and Gallery 1988 and so on, it must be nice to be liked by so many fans and galleries.

Luke Chueh: Los Angeles has treated me well, and I feel very lucky to have my paintings received so positively.

So first off you seem to have a dark sense of humor in you work, would you say you talk like your work looks? Are you very meta about yourself?

Definition: Meta - Something that is characteristically self-referential.I wasn't sure what being "Meta" meant, so I found this definition which unfortunately only helped a little. Is being meta like speaking of ones self in the third person? Or are you asking if my paintings are about me and my personal experiences? If so, I would say my paintings are undeniably meta.

Are you a fan of dark movies?

I can definitely say I used to be a fan of dark movies. Films like "Eraserhead" or "Tetsuo the Iron Man" we're amongst my favorites. But that was when I was in high school and college. Lately I've been a fan of films that are less "challenging". Maybe I'm getting old. (sigh…)

What has shaped your pieces, LA, cartoons?

Cartoons definitely shaped me first, but LA definitely plays an important role in the artist I am today. I started painting similar material before I moved to Los Angeles, but after I settled in, LA became as much a part of me as I became part of LA.

In the book you spoke of how one of your pieces was stolen and redone multiple times in Japanese with multiple animals eating themselves, I Asked for Scrambled, are you really not taking any legal action or at least plotting revenge?

I'm definitely plotting some sort of "revenge" while I've been investigating my legal options thanks to my Japanese management team. Since we eventually found out who was behind the theft we've issued orders to cease and desist. However, I seriously doubt that I'll be able to recoup a percentage of the profits they made from my painting. Unfortunately that's how it goes, and there's not much I can do when it's happening half way around the world.

How has it been going through the different LA galleries? Is each a different experience or has it become repetitive or is each a new pleasant experience?

The Los Angeles gallery scene has been very good to me and each space has provided me with something unique and helpful to my career. Gallery 1988, Copro Gallery, M Modern Gallery, and Corey Helford Gallery are establishments I happily credit with helping me grow and develop as an artist

 My favorite question to ask of artists is really two. What is your process on creating a piece. I don't just mean, where do you start like an early sketch, but is music in the background or do you need utter silence, maybe a TV on to create something? Is it cigarettes?

Ideas seem to come randomly to me. They mostly come when I'm talking to friends and sometimes when I'm watching television or reading. Depending on where it happens I usually take a written note on the notepad app of my Iphone. When I get back to my studio, I'll sit down with my a sketchbook and start fleshing the idea out from my head to paper. I usually play music, a podcast, or NPR (KPCC 98.3 FM) while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, and yes, I'm usually smoking cigarettes, though lately I've been working to cut that out of my life.

 In all your pieces I've seen throughout your book, I don't think I saw one bear, rabbit or monkey harmed by cigarettes, is that something you don't believe affects you? Also, how many do you smoke a day?

As of late, I smoke about less then half a pack a day. It's a habit I've been working on stopping, especially since fewer and fewer people around me smoke and is quickly becoming socially unacceptable. The reason why I haven't had any of my characters directly harmed by cigarettes is probably because, as of now, I haven't experienced any major health issues directly related to smoking. But I can't deny another reason why I  avoid addressing the issue is because it hits too close to home and maybe I'm scared of confronting them.

If you, Joe Ledbetter and Amanda Visell ran a zoo together I would fear for both the animals and children's safety. Have you ever visited a zoo and met a real bear or anything else you paint? Why do you think animals are used so much in your work and the work of other artists?

I can only speak for myself as to why I use animal characters. It started when I was considering what I wanted to paint. I came to believe that using anthropomorphized animals was the easiest way of illustrating the ideas I had while reaching a wider audience. Human beings are inherently biased  and these characters allow me to communicate without the potential hangups that come with racism, sexism, and ageism. I think my audience would react very differently if I replaced my bears and rabbits with a 20-30 year old asian male character, or in contrast, a geriatric black female. Also, I believe we are conditioned to empathize with animal characters. They were the toys we loved and played with (teddy bears) and the cartoons we watched and were inspired by (Disney, Hannah Barbara). Finally, I can't deny the fact that at the time my skills as a painter were limited. These animal characters were what I was able to best produce while teaching myself how to become a better painter.

Which of your pieces do you think evokes the most out of others?

I'm not sure which of my paintings evokes the most from my fans or colleagues, and I'm almost always surprised when I learn which paintings some of my fans feel to be their favorites. My painting "The Soundtrack (To My Life)" seems to be one of my most popular pieces.

How was it stepping into toys/plastic from painting?

One of the things I rely on in my paintings is my use of line. Inspired by the art of Ralph Steadman, my line work is scrawled onto canvas with a wooden stick & indian ink. The results are frenetic and jagged, and I consider this one of the signature elements in my paintings.
When making the transition to sculpture and toys, I had to learn to let go of this line work. This was a transition I first found unsettling. But over the years I ended up learning to enjoy the difference. I consider my toys to be an important tool for reaching and communicating to my audience.