Gilbert "Magu" Lujan
In all, the full spectrum of my erudition and Chicano experience became the source of my ethno-aesthetic pursuits and the vocabulary for my eventual ideological stance. It became a significant necessity to explore this initially academic discovery and examination of Art as it became and developed into a civic community advocacy role.
My art intentions, over the years, have been to use Mesoamerican heritage as well as implementing current popular Art and cultural folk sources as the material substance to translate.
It was this exploration of ethnicity that revealed my indigenous identity and that research subsequently helped to bring a well-spring of information about my heritage(s). Another consequence, while academia wasn't prepared to provide that aspect of my educational process, but provided an opportunity to exercise some personal initiative and self-reliance to pursue my specific needs.
Being raised in the Chicano culture of Southern Califas, and as an art student in the 60s, my formal education was shaped with the influences of that curriculum, and obtaining a definition of Art while simultaneously gaining knowledge of the Art-world-in-general. At that time, I was challenged, as were other Latino students attending college, to adopt a community orientation as by organizing culturally motivated artist groups, as I did, to manifest and articulate validation for Chican experience in their artwork.
Altars, custom cars, sweet breads, domestic arts barrio gardens and the sweat lodge were discoveries of the research into looking for Chicano art forms. Installation of my cultural expositions (Altars) were exhibited at Santa Ana Community College (1966) to express these newly found art forms. A full-size sweat lodge installation was done with adobe and bamboo shoots, inside the San Diego, Centro de la Raza, resembling a Kachina spirit symbol. to acknowledge our fore parents.
Car culture, graffiti as calligraphy, pan-Chicano, garden landscapes and other barrio-found elements became the comprehensive visual syntax and vocabulary to spell out my aesthetic intent to describe the cultural experience.
Anthropomorphic characters and Southwestern ambiance later became featured narratives with puns, all eventually fused together make up the humorous analogies and the whimsical fantasy world of Magulandia.
To me, culture best outlines and provides the basis by which Chicano Art can be defined. Within this very broad spectrum of experience and opinion, one can find many schools of aesthetic viewpoints and philosophies. It is the culture-at-large by which artists can extract their aesthetic resources. By my assembling of various groups throughout the latter 1960's, C.A.C.A, Ollin, C.A.P.A.,and eventually Los Four (1973), which then became the first Chicano Art exhibition in a major museum in the world, and brought that aesthetic validation sought at LA's cultural palace : The Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1974.
The significance of Los Four mirrored the socio-political introspection and concerns of Raza at that time besides providing some iconographic vocabulary to initiate definitions of our ethno-art forms. Our Los Four Xicano contingency ran against some Euro-aesthetic standards of the period. We, as pictorial artists, gave a visual voice to those interests of parity for our young constituency-culture. It was a form of cooperation binding us by our sociological circumstance, indigenous paradigms and our adopted response to unify ourselves along political cultural oriented purposes, in lieu of solely aesthetical ones.
Then, in the early 70s, the books of Carlos Castaneda brought me "home" after a decade of exploring Asian philosophies and cultures. The Zen-like wisdom of Don Juan, a man of knowledge, were a parallel to me of the mystics and monks of the East. Both systems rooted in the Naturalism and the humanistic qualities of wisdom cultures, these monks aptly matched the indigenous seers., to me. The value and pursuit of a Fine Art education, with ethnicity as a focal point of aesthetics, made Carlos Castaneda's books more significant and of the utmost value. It was a concurrent interest in perception and phenomenology, that assisted the refinement of my aesthetic viewpoint. My artwork, was influenced by reinforcing those elements of Meso American heritage, and their incredible collective past accomplishments.
In the Hollywood/Vine Metro station project, my design criteria which was applied to the underground station's aesthetic ambiance and including a Plaza, allowed me to expand my personal repertoire and to provide some aesthetic entertainment for the commuter. By representing Car culture of Southern California with the Low-slung tandem wheeled custom and the Thirties blue Woodie recalling the Beach boys. Stars are a visual motif repeated throughout the pictorial station tiles filled with various puns and light-hearted Califas lifestyle. The Movie World symbols delineate the landscape and content of filmdom's Golden Age in a culturally West Coast manner and intent.