The first time I ever met Gilbert “Magu” Lujan was the first time I ever entered the dA Center for the Arts. I grew up in Pomona and was familiar with the Arts Colony, after all, my mother dragged me to Antique Row many a time when I was a child and I frequented The Glass House as a teen.
It must have been the early aughts when I first started at Mt. San Antonio College taking either a photography or art history class which required I visit a gallery, take photos, and write a review. I came down to the dA during a Saturday children’s art class that was taking place upstairs. I remember being very nervous, the depiction of art galleries in the media already had me feeling inferior. Thankfully
the dA was no such place. At the top of the stairs was Magu standing above several grade school aged kids calling me up to participate. Magu was teaching the kids to cut bright paper into wonderful creatures. He demonstrated for me and gave his example as a gift and he signed it “Magu”, I had no idea at the time what this meant (“Chicano Art” was not taught at any level I had encountered, certainly not the mention of artists’ names) but I knew I felt welcomed and someone was taking the time to talk to me about art making.
Later, when I discovered the Los Angeles Redline I once again encountered Magu at the Hollywood/Vine station. A ‘familiar’ name in a new place, it reminded me of Pomona. I now know Magu means so much more to the Chicano Art cannon but to me his work and name always reminded me of home. When I found out that he passed I was so disappointed, mostly because he is one of the many Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945 – 1980 artists to have left us just before the big party.
The dA Center for the Arts helped to honor Magu’s legacy with Magulandia, an exhibition of his work partially curated by Rolo Castillo. Many thanks to Rolo and the Lujan family. The events that occurred throughout August included a collector’s reception and a public reception with music provided by Elloy Torres and friends, Chola con Cello, and Conjunto Los Pochos. There was also a taco cart on hand as well as a Magu low-rider car.
The family is still accepting donations at this time through the website magulandia.com. Of course the dA Center for the Arts will continue to sell commemorative posters through the end of this year’s 9th Aztlan exhibition Returning to Aztlan: Revisited, an homage to the first Aztlan exhibition co-curated by Frank Garcia and Magu.