Book Review by Paula Lauren Gibson/AfroPix
All images © Luke Chueh
Luke Chueh’s (pronounced CHEW) first book “Bearing the Unbearable” has been released. This “official” – read this authorized – book is a full color printed history of Luke’s work covering the period between 2003-2009.
The book is a lot about Luke’s art with some personal reflections, text and photos, from Luke and friends. Since Luke’s art now sells for thousand’s of dollars, I found it a bit ironic reading that Luke’s first attempt to sell his art was a bust. He supposedly contributed “a large canvas” with “a large price tag” to his first Cannibal Flower art show. As he put it “Fantasies of what I would say to my first collector, followed with what I would spend the money on filled my head.” It just figures that he would have to lug that painting home unsold. His complexity showed its head from the start….the first piece he wound up selling was aptly titled “Feeling Blue”  which title, I feel, was in anticipation that his second attempt to sell his art might wind up as the first.
Feeling blue featured a rabbit, a creature that reappears time and time again, even though Luke is best known as “the bear guy”. Reading this book I realize that Luke has had to bear a lot – surviving a drive-by shooting, rehab, personal demons and the like. Maybe that’s why the macabre is a constant theme. We see hares either cutters or cut with lots of blood: ears [Hare-Cut, 2004], arms [Life by the Knife, 2005]. We also see a theme of disappointment such in The Soundtrack to my Life, 2004 wherein a bear considers playing a broken record; not to forget the vices of alcoholism or cigarettes with gin bottles and cigarette packs labeled “yum yum” [Paintings For Children (Alcohol/Tobacco), 2004]. Several friends are quoted in the book as to their fears about having to write or read Luke’s eulogy.
With the piece “Bear in Mind”, 2006, Luke felt that he had stepped outside his comfort zone. Yet, the macabre theme continues to be seen in his work. As Gary Pressman asserts Luke will paint “blood, shit or puke” to “perfection”! The book is a great opportunity to see in one place how an artist evolves or regresses over a span of time.
Luke will be signing copies of his book at the following events:
Nucleus Gallery: Saturday June 16th, 2012 (6pm – 9pm)
210 E. Main Street. Alhambra CA 91801
Gallery 1988 (Venice): Sunday June 17th, 2012 (12pm – 2pm)
Gallery 1988: 214 Pier Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90405