Welcome back to In Depth with the Artist! 2012’s series has been a little wonky on timing, but real big on talent – and July’s artist is no exception!
Los Angeles artist Luke Chueh is on the rise with a lot in store for art lovers, art skeptics and everyone in between. His work touches people, sets them off, and is always, always, something to talk about.
Hear what makes the Chueh tick, and what’s coming up for the future.
Junkyard Arts: How many years have you been an artist or illustrator? Is it something you always knew you wanted to do or was there a moment growing up, or a piece of work you saw where you said “that is something I want to do” ?
Luke Chueh: I’ve been working full time as a painter since 2003, but I’ve wanted a career in the visual arts when I was 5. While I was in college I was prepared to go the graphic design route (a form of art I still very much love and enjoy) but I’m a much better painter/illustrator than I am a designer.
JYA: Is there a medium you prefers to work with, or one that you has a special affinity for?
LC: My preferred medium is acrylic paint and ink. I started with acrylic, and I can easily work with the dry time, but I’m also a bit curious with oils, though the toxic nature of the medium gives me second thoughts (I’m a sloppy painter).
JYA: Tell me a bit about the first time you realized you found a style of your own. Who are some of your influences?
LC: I first came about my illustration style when I was in school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It came from a combination of life drawing and illustration classes. My current voice is an amalgam of painting full time for eight or so years.
JYA: What was your fist professional job as an artist and how did that come about?
LC: My first professional job as a painter was the Fall Out Boy album cover. I got started as an independent artist through my shows at Cannibal Flower. I’ve always had a hard time holding on to a job, but was willing to do through great lengths to make sure my personal projects came to fruition.
JYA: Have any major art-failures?
LC: I’ve yet to have any complete “failure’s”, but there are moments when I’ve created works that I wish I had more time to work on. When I had my Life By The Knife show at Copro Nason Gallery, almost all the paintings were hardly finished. It was a mess of a show and I couldn’t be in the same room with the art. I wish that show never happened.
JYA: What would you consider your first big success?
LC: My first success, in my eyes, was when I sold my first two paintings as a pair for $300. It was the first time somebody believed enough in my work to invest in it, and I’ll never forget the feeling I got from that sale.
JYA: I speculate in my review of your book why you don’t like to be called a low brow artist. So how do you see yourself fitting into the world? Do you feel like you fit into the fine art world, or feel excluded? Do you not give a shit? Do you give a lot of shits?
LC: I totally understand why I’ve been associated with labels such as “lowbrow” or “pop surreal”. My work is character driven and inspired by lowbrow culture (ie. comics, cartoons, and popular culture). But I prefer seeing my work as “contemporary”, and I want to believe it’s only a matter of time the art establishment recognizes just how important and significant this scene really is.
What also reinforces this feeling is the fact that museums like LACMA, MOMA, and MOCA have noted that shows like Takashi Murakami, Tim Burton, or “Art From the Streets” have been some of their most popular shows. I feel that this signifies a trend in people enjoying art that they can connect to.
JYA: There’s a sophistication that has developed in your work that is clear as you scroll through the pages of the book – where do you see yourself growing? The style is so recognizable that at this point, can you change too much? And is that a concern?
LC: Thanks you for your kind worlds. I was really hopping that the viewer might be able to sense my growth through the book. I’m glad to know it came through with you. As far as being pigeonholed into one specific style, it’s definitely a concern of mine. But some of future works will definitely push me to explore different styles of painting and different styles of narrative. Is this a risk? Yes, and no. Something I’ve realized is that it’s not just the artist whose growing and evolving, it’s also the audience. If an artist doesn’t exhibit some since of growth and evolution, he/she will be left in the dust.
JYA: Let’s talk about the book! How did the book come about? Tell me about the process and what that does to an artist’s ego.
LC: Gallery 1988, my first gallery, contacted me about doing a book after they finished their Crazy For Cult book in 2010. When working with a producer and publisher, I’m more interested in working with them AFTER they’ve produced a book I consider worthwhile. That way they’ve already had a chance to work out the kinks of busting into the publishing business. The process left me both psyched and scared. I left the design to the publisher, and there were times when I butted heads with both publisher and producer. But I’m very happy with the book itself. On hindsight, maybe I should have worked with a book rep to help get me a better deal all around, but “c’est la vie”.
As far as my ego is concerned. Not much has changed. Maybe I feel a bit more confident with the idea that I am meant to be a painter, but that’s about it.
JYA: Where to now? Give me a hint of things to come!
LC: For 2012, on top of my book release, Munky King is releasing my third major art toy, Target. I’ve also got shows planned in Chicago (Rotofugi), London (Moniker Art Fair), and Tokyo. In 2013 I’ll be returning to Los Angeles with a solo show at Corey Helford Gallery. I’m also working with different mediums such sculpture, and animation.
JYA: Ooh cool, so not a whole lot then?
Acrylic and, Ink on panel of canvas. Pencil and Paper.
FAVORITE WORK OF ART
I can’t think of anything specific. Also my “favorite” is constantly changing.
FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO
FAVORITE PLACE TO TRAVEL
Not sure. There are a ton of places I’d love to visit. Check in with me after I get some more traveling on my belt.
JYA: Will do!