These last few years I’ve been very interested in the work of Pop Surrealists and the underground art world. Sometimes it’s called “lowbrow” or “junk” art, but that term greatly undervalues the talent and pure emotion that is poured into the creative works of this movement. I’m not saying that I understand every piece of that comes along, but much of what comes out of the underground art world deals with the anxieties, depressions, and the pop-culture saturated world that I grew up with. A great example of this, that I’ve recently came across, is the work of Luke Chueh.
Chueh has a new book out, The Art of Luke Chueh – Bearing the Unbearable which is a wonderful collection of his art work. Published by Titan Books and Gallery 1988, Bearing the Unbearable reviews the L.A. based artist’s work from 2003 to 2008 and is a brilliant exploration of Chueh’s emotionally charged paintings of cute and cuddly critters suffering in one form or another. Chueh’s work often focuses on one main critter, strategically placed, and isolated by negative space (probably to emphasize the experience (or plight) of the subject). It’s as if Chueh took the best and safest part of childhood (our love of anthropomorphic bears and bunnies), and then smashes them face first into our deepest anxieties and worst nightmares.
I won’t say anything about Chueh’s state of mind (hell, maybe he’s a happy dude who loves puppies, Disneyland…), but there is a sense of dark humor in every piece tethered to real life fears and disappointments that I think many of us feel. One of my favorite examples of this is can be found on page 119 of Bearing the Unbearable.
Where in front of a glowing red background, Small (monotone) bunny-critters with glowing red eyes swarm a larger (frightened) version of themselves. I think I turn back to that page more than others because, not only do I think it’s an excellent piece of art, but I identified my own anxieties and feelings of being overwhelmed too. Maybe Chueh had a something different in mind for that piece, but as the viewer I get to interpret my own feelings caused by each work and there are over 180 pages of equally amazing (emotion stirring) art between the covers.
Bearing the Unbearable also has pages of commentary and quotes about Chueh’s work from fellow artists, gallery owners, and musicians before each featured years collection of art. One quote I especially liked from Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy said:
His bears represent the wild and feral in all of us. They represent the other side of civilization. The other part of them represents the teddy bear, the safety that we all cling to; the peacefulness of dreams.
The art of Luke Chueh – Bearing the Unbearable can be purchased at Amazon.com and also don’t forget to go check out Luke’s site where you can finds prints, t-shirts, and all sorts of cool stuff featuring his art.