Artist: Gilbert “Magu” Luján
Venue: University Art Galleries, UC Irvine
Exhibition Title: Aztlán to Magulandia: The Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján
Curated by: Hal Glicksman, Rhea Anastas
Date: October 7 – December 16, 2017
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images © 2017 Collection of the Estate of Gilbert “Magu” Luján; courtesy of University Art Galleries, UC Irvine © 2017. Photos by Fredrik Nilsen.
UC Irvine’s University Art Galleries (UAG) will present the first survey of one of the most iconic figures of the Chicano art movement, Gilbert “Magu” Luján (1940–2011), and an accompanying publication. Aztlán to Magulandia: The Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America. Major support for Aztlan to Magulandia is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation.
One of the founding members of the Chicano artists collective Los Four, Luján is known for his coloration and visual explorations of Chicano culture and community that drew upon and brought to life various historic and contemporary visual sources with startling results: Pyramid-mounted low riders driven by anthropomorphic dogs traversing a newly defined and mythologized L.A. He was part of a small group of dedicated artists and intellectuals who set about defining a Chicano identity and culture as part of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The UAG’s retrospective will focus on creativity and invention in Luján’s work in a myriad of sketches and drawings, paintings, and sculptures. Luján combined two world-making concepts, Aztlán, the mythic northern ancestral home of the indigenous Mexican Aztecs that became a charged symbol of Chicano activism; and Magulandia, the term Luján coined for the space in which he lived and produced his work, and for his work as a whole. Together, Aztlán and Magulandia represented both physical spaces and the complex cultural, geographic, and conceptual relationships that exist between Los Angeles and Mexico and served as dual landscapes for Luján’s artistic philosophy and cultural creativity.
About Gilbert “Magu” Luján:
As part of a small group of dedicated artists and intellectuals, Luján set about defining Chicano identity and culture on the heels of the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. To do so, he combined various historic and contemporary visual sources with startling results: pyramid-mounted lowriders driven by human-like dogs traversing a newly defined and mythologized LA. Luján’s wealth of imagery merges the traditions of art brut and folk art; Meso-American mythology and ritual; the Chicano culture of lowriders, murals, and graffiti; the religious imagery of New World Catholicism; and the political and sociological imperatives of socialism—all along with a savvy self-awareness of contemporary American art since World War II. He produced ambitious public art projects such as the Hollywood & Vine Metro station, and exhibited extensively in galleries and museums within the United States and abroad.
Luján’s efforts as an emerging artist and student in the masters program at the University of California, Irvine, in the 1960s and the early 1970s changed the course of art history. Famously, at that time, he brought together Los Four—an artists’ collective comprised of himself, Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, and Beto de la Rocha. Los Four breached the sober, Eurocentric walls of academia and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with the exuberant artistic energy that had been gathering on the streets—and particularly the walls—of East Los Angeles. A fervent, dedicated theorist and organizer, Magu was soon recognized as the fulcrum for burgeoning chicanismo, tirelessly promoting an alternative view to the dominant Western aesthetic and reinvigorating it with both a renewed social conscience and Latin passion.
Luján also made a significant contribution as a teacher, in ways both formal and informal. From 1976 to 1980, he served on the faculty of the La Raza Studies Department at Fresno City College, concluding his term as department chair. In Pomona, he was active in community outreach at the Pomona Art Colony, and also taught art at the nearby Claremont Colleges. A loquacious promoter of the passionate discussion of aesthetics and politics, Magu’s famous “Mental Menudos” attracted artists and writers from throughout the Southland.