Book Review: The Art of Luke Chueh - Bearing the Unbearable / Author: Luke Chueh / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: Out Now
Luke Chueh – pronounced “chew” for name-dropping purposes – is a luminary of the L.A.-based Pop-Surrealist art movement. Otherwise known as “the bear guy”, Chueh specializes in using cuddly anthropomorphic characters – mainly bears and rabbits, with the occasional monkey or chicken – to embody his personal demons in enchantingly comedic fashion. A teddy paints a target on his chest, a rabbit crops his ears with a pair of scissors to make himself look more like the bear on his T-shirt… Sporting cute titles such as My Happiness Is Riding Your Misery, the result is a form of hip, self-deprecating, confessional art with roots in the Californian singer-songwriter tradition and plenty to say about our image-obsessed popular culture.
This book gathers together over 200 of Cheuh's paintings. Being between hardcovers suits them very well – they read like panels from a great, lost underground graphic novel, somewhere between Art Spiegelman, Gilbert and George and the Rupert Bear parody in Oz. Titan have pulled out the stops in producing a handsome volume that faithfully captures Chueh's vibrant stained-glass palette.
But it's a shame that the text is so flimsy, amounting to no more than a few teasing paragraphs by the artist and some rambling tributes from colleagues (“Thank you for continuing to create. Thank you for creating a world of creative inspiration.” No, thank you, dude.) Given how witty Chueh obviously is, you can't help wishing a giant bunny had put a gun to his head and forced him to pen a long, indiscreet accompanying memoir. Nonetheless, Bearing the Unbearable is food for thought and a delight to the eye, as well as being a likely talking-point at furry conventions for years to come.