Artist Luke Chueh Talks 'Possessed,' Sanrio, Anime and The Venture Bros.
If you live in L.A., you might think that Luke Chueh is everywhere. The local artist with an international reputation has had, he estimates, ten solo shows in the city (his latest, Contemptorary ran at Corey Helford Gallery in February). He's been in countless group shows, from the Cannibal Flower events where he got his start to, more recently, Inle at Gallery 1988 and #PrayForJapan at JapanLA. In May, his work will appear in the group show "Bunnies and Bows." A large, bloody bear based on the painting "Possessed" is standing in the window of Melrose Ave. designer toy shop Munky King, where we conducted this interview. His work is even on the cover of a recent issue of Giant Robot.
Luke Chueh, though, is the kind of guy you want to see everywhere, a humble and immensely clever artist who is as approachable as he is intriguing. He's the kind of guy with whom you can begin a conversation by discussing art and then up talking about The Venture Bros. and Pulp.
"I love the way they tied in that Pulp track," said Chueh, referencing the use of the song "Like a Friend" in the Season 4 finale. "I love the way it romanticizes the whole thing, but kind of reinserts it into the absurdity of The Venture Bros. It was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise. It made me love the song even more."
Shannon Cottrell A Luke Chueh watch
This isn't necessarily a random aside. Both music and animation have been influential on Chueh. Before he was a painter by profession, Chueh worked as a graphic designer, during which time he created E.X.P., a zine focused on IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) where he featured interviews with the likes of Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert. Lately, he's found inspiration in a well known indie band.
"'I've been listening to a lot of Spiritualized and some of their verses became the genesis of a lot of my paintings," he said.
Anime and manga, in particular, were part of Chueh's formative years and he continues to keep up on both. In fact, we were initially going to conduct this interview at an anime shop in Monterey Park.
"I love Fullmetal Alchemist. I started reading the manga," said Chueh. "Genshikin it's an anime and it's all about otaku culture. For manga, I've been reading D. Gray-Man. Berserk has been surprisingly good. I'm also checking out Nigima. For a while, I was really into Naruto, the second one, but then I lost track of it."
Admittedly influenced by Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara and other Superflat artists' reflection on anime and manga, Chueh has similarly incorporated pop culture commentary in his own work.
"Audiences, I believe, want to see something that they can identify with, that they can connect with," he said. "This entire low brow, pop surrealist American art, which is a lot more narrative, has a way of communicating with audiences, the same way that Superflat and Murakami have as well."