Published by Titan Books
Luke Chueh (pronounced ‘chew’) is one of those cats you don’t know, but you’ve definitely seen his work. In recent years, his work has shown up in a few places high profile enough that, chances being, you’ve seen at least one of his pieces. The Art of Luke Chueh – Bearing the Unbearable presents a large portion of his work and gives you a glimpse at the man inside the bear suit.
Yes, bears. LOTS of bears. Not exclusively bears, but certainly enough that Chueh says he sometimes laments being ‘the bear guy’. That’s the place most have seen him, the bear painting that’s the cover of Fall Out Boys’ album Folie a Deux.
Why are we reviewing a book of art from a guy who mostly paints bears and bear suits? Let’s just say that the Fall Out Boy cover is one of the more peaceful and bloodless paintings. The body of Chueh’s work is primarily made up of extremely dark, graphic, and often violent imagery using his trademark bears and other anthropomorphic animals. His animals rarely look like actual animals; rather they look like humans in animal suits, as you’d find at a theme park. Once you read this book, you’ll understand that a bit more.
Chueh, like many artists, is a troubled man. Struggles with depression and addiction have inspired his art, leaving much of it very disturbing or sad. Eyes are gouged out, limbs severed, blood sprays by the gallons. It would be easy to write Chueh off as the artistic version of a shock rocker, combining inherently childlike images with bloody gore, but it’s apparent there’s much more to Chueh and his work than simple attempts to shock. His work has heart, for lack of a better term.
After viewing all the pieces in this book, it’s impossible not to see the artist behind the work. As simple as they may be, his designs evoke strong emotions. My favorite image, ‘Shining Down on Me’, tells a story. The bear, on his knees, is missing his eyes. Only bloody sockets remain. This would seem a tragedy, but then you see his paws are soaked in blood. From holding the wounds? Or from inflicting blindness on himself? The light shining down from above, that the bear can no longer see due to his self-mutilation, tells a tale of someone who is his own worst enemy. It’s a piece that leaves you shaken, and that’s a powerful statement on a simple painting of a bear.
Text bits from admirers and people from Chueh’s past illuminate his rise in the art world and give you some idea of Chueh’s personality. Paragraphs from Chueh himself about his work say little about the artist, but his work does all the talking you need. Still, I would have liked to know a little more about him, in his own words.
It’s a very nice volume of some extreme art. You can check out many of Chueh’s images online to see if he’s to your liking, but if so, this book would make an excellent addition to your collection. I know I’m glad that it now resides in mine.
4 1/2 out of 5