About Gilbert "Magú" Luján's
Me and My Compadre
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTWORK
REPRODUCTION: What can I learn about how this reproduction is different
from the original artwork?
The image on the computer is a digitized image. The original is the
21st of 100 hand-pulled lithographs. The original print is 28" high
x 20" wide and printed on thick, acid-free paper.
The original was conceived and financed jointly by the Segura Publishing
Company (Joe Segura proprietor and master printer) and MARS (Movimiento
Artístico Río Salado, Ralph Córdova, director).
CONDITION: What can I learn about the condition of the artwork?
The lithographic print is in excellent condition.
SUBJECT MATTER: What can I determine about what the artwork depicts
The print depicts a dog embracing a man with its right paw which has
been been anthropomorphized (made to appear human-like). The dog has a
cartoon quality, especially because of its "button" eyes, triangular
ears, and mouth without detail--just a white cavity. On the dog's left
anthropomorphized arm where on a human a tattoo might appear, indeed there
is a tattoo of a heart over which is emblazoned MARS. The man has a dark
mustache and a light-colored mask and he wears an open green shirt. The
dog has on what appears to be an undershirt. The background is sky blue.
Printmaking Lesson Index
|TOOLS, MATERIALS, AND PROCESSES: What can
I learn about how the artwork was made?
The print is No. 21 of an edition of 100. The artist made five separate
drawings on aluminum plates, one for each color. Joe Segura, a master printer
and owner of the Segura Publishing Coompany, inked each plate, placed heavy
paper over the plate, and ran the plate through a press. He repeated this
process five times with each print (once for each color) in order to make
the final print.
Sensory Lesson Index
What visual elements do you see?
The print has a festive quality. It feels like a cross between a snapshot
taken at a party or carnival where revelers pose for a momentary portrait
and the cell of a comic strip. Bright colors predominate: the yellow skin
tones of the man and the sienna color of the dog, the green shirt, bright
blue sky, pastel, rose and white mask and undershirt, and the reddish tones
of what might be a love seat in the background. The otherwise flat, simple,
sometimes outlined shapes are enlivened with loose, lively, linear textures.
FORMAL ORGANIZATION: How do the elements in the artwork work together?
The most striking element is the contrast between the vertical ellipses
and the succesive waves of horizontal contours. The vertical element consists
of the two elliptical heads (dog and man) together with the dog's two arms.
Contrasted to the vertically positioned shapes are the colorful, undulating
horizontal spaces. The man's green shirt makes up the foreground horizontal
space, followed by the reddish love seat and the blue sky in the background.
There are almost no straight lines in the composition. A warm, undulating
use of line predominates, and this element of inviting comradeship is supported
by the bright, pastel color scheme.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTMAKER
The artist, Gilbert Luján, who prefers to be known by the name,
"Magú" was born in 1940 at French Camp (close to Stockton),
California. His parents come from two long lines of American Indian (both
Tarascan and Apache) and Mexican-American families. While Luján
spent his first months in a migrant workers' settlement in Northern California,
his family soon relocated permanently in East Los Angeles where he spent
his elementary and high school years.
Gilbert Luján grew up in the half-rural, half-suburban environment
of the towns of La Puente and El Monte. Essentially extended parts of the
East Los Angeles metropolis, they were multiethnic communities where comradeship
was an important value.
After a stint in the airforce, Luján returned to Los Angeles
in 1962, where he decided to pursue art as a career. First, Luján
enrolled at East Los Angeles Junior College, then studying from 1966 to
1971, first at California State University, Long Beach, where he earned
the B.A., and the University of Califorinia, Irvine, where he earned an
M.F.A. At Irvine he worked with the ceramic sculptor John Mason as well
as with John Paul Jones and Tony Delap. During this period Luján
was foremost an art student, discovering his esthetic direction and finding
its articulation in Chicano art. He also organized artist's conferences
for the purpose of establishing at once a personal and social vocabulary
for Chicano art.
As a result of his organizing efforts, in cooperation with three other
Los Angeles Chicano artists (Carlos Almaraz, Beto de la Rocha, and Frank
Romero), the exhibiting group "Los Four" was established and
gained considerable exposure and recognition. Their first major exhibit
was at the University of California, Irvine in 1974, followed by exhibits
at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum, and several
From 1976-1981, Luján taught at the La Raza Studies Department
at Fresno City College (where he became chair of the department in 1980).
In 1977, with John Valadez, Geraldo López, Fred Payán and
members of La Brocha del Valle (a local art group), he oversaw and helped
execute an immense farmworkers' mural on the theme given to him by the
farmworkers, "Una Sola Unión," now lost.
FUNCTIONAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about how the artwork was used?
The lithograph was produced as a fundraiser for a prominent Chicano/Latino
art organization and art gallery in Phoenix, Arizona, the Movimiento Artístico
Río Salado (the Artistic Movement of the Salt River). The Salt River
runs through the center of Phoenix. MARS supports artists in Arizona, especially
the Phoenix metropolitan area. The tattoo commemorates the fundraising
event since MARS is the abbreviation of Movimiento Artístico Río
Salado and thus the tattoo stands for a sentiment akin to "I love
CULTURAL CONTEXT: What can I determine about what people thought, believed,
or did in the culture in which the artwork was made?
Luján has observed that the social and political circumstances
of contemporary Chicano culture place a premium on community unification
and consensus based on personal and ethnic identification and social altruism.
(Letter from Gilbert Luján to Gary Keller Cárdenas, February
Me and My Compadre is also excellent example of the rasquache
[pron. RA-SKWA-CHE] sensibility. The playful and irreverent rasquache
attitude toward life subverts rather than confronts authority, especially
external, Anglo authority, and is an important aspect of Chicano culture.
Chicanos find themselves constantly harrassed by such authorities as the
police, the immigration service, case workers, and others, The rasquache
sensibility permits Chicanos to survive by means of a stance of resistance
that is humorous and ironic rather than confrontational or hard-edged
ARTWORLD CONTEXT: What can I learn about the art ideas, beliefs, and
activities that were important in the culture in which the artwork was
Collaboration and the formation of exhibition groups are important in
Chicana and Chicano culture and Luján was active in such groups
such as "Los Four" and La Brocha de Oro. Luján also very
actively organized conferences on behalf of Chicana and Chicano artists.
In a very notable way, Me and My Compadre through its attention
to companionship and friendship and collaboration (particularly the work
on behalf of the artist for the art organization, MARS), reflects the very
same beliefs and activities in the Chicano artworld.
With respect to the rasquache sensibility that the work evokes,
this sensibility also infuses a number of other art works. Eva Sperling
Cockcroft observes that: "This rasquache, barrio-based attitude
is the common factor in the Pop inspired work of Mel Casas and Luis Jiménez;
the defiant pachuco/a portraits by César
Martínez, John Valadez and Daniel Gálvez; the neo-Expressionist
paintings of Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero and Gronk; the funky constructions
and painted cars of Gilbert "Magú" Luján; or the
bilingual preformances of José Montoya and Guillermo Gómez-Peña.
It is this style more than any other that has been identified in the popular
mind with Chicano art." For more information on this aspect of Chicano
art see, Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, "Rasquachismo: A Chicano Sensibility,"
Richard Griswold del Castillo and others, ed., Chicano Art: Resistance
and Affirmation, 1965-1985, Wight Art Gallery, UCLA: Los Angeles, 1991,
VIEWPOINTS FOR INTERPRETATION
MAKER'S INTENTION: What can I learn about why the maker wanted the artwork
to look the way it does?
"The making of art entails numerous conglomerations of influences,
choices, decisions, intentions, and worldy forces. It requires knowledge,
discipline, emotions, rationale, and direction. These factors are not all
inclusive but are some of the elementary aspects to me. Me and My Compadre
is concerned with bonding and humor, masked emotions and character,
fun and revealing dual aspects of a personality--i.e., the dog is an alter-ego.
"My aesthetic is determined to enhance a group identification of
Chicano culture. To establish a vocabulary that can be expressed regardless
of style/format/personal manner, but of Chicana/o experience which holds
the definitions and central matrix to the question. It is each artista's
obligation to decide and choose their goals and objectives in arte
(anything)." Letter from Gilbert Luján to Gary Keller Cárdenas,
February 13, 1997.
Viewer Lesson Index
|ARTWORLD VIEWER UNDERSTANDING: What can I determine
about how the viewer, patron, or user undertstood the artwork?
The primary patrons of the work were Chicanos and other Latinos, either
with some financial resources to purchase a lithograph selling for a few
hundred dollars, or intensely interested in Chicano art. Me and My Compadre
was a community conceived and financed product, printed by a Chicano company
under the supervision of a Chicano master printer. Thus it was produced
by the community primarily for the community. Nevertheless, because Gilbert
Luján has established a national reputation since as early as 1974
(the date of the first major Chicano art exhibit at a major art museum,
the Los Four Exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), this
lithograph as well as many other examples of his work, have been purchased
by mainstream collectors and museums, and have been exhibited at a variety
of galleries, primarily Latino, but also mainstream.
Thematically, the work has a universal appeal due to its humorous evocation
of comradeship, the mutability and mystery of postures and images, and
the interchangeability and interaction between a human and a dog. Stylistically,
the work communicates to a wide audience due to the immediacy of the figures
which are easily understand, its bright and appealing color scheme, and
economical, undulating use of line.
CULTURAL IMPACT: What can I learn about how the artwork was understood
within the culture in which it was made?
Me and My Compadre functions as a piece that reinforces the sense
of Chicano community, of neighborhood parties and getting together, of
buddies "hanging out," and an acceptance of the social stances
that all humans project. As Gilbert Luján has put it in his statement
letter of February 13, 1997: "There are acculturation factors that
reveal traits of humans being interchanged." He points to the lithograph's
presentation of "an ego and its alter ego."
The lithograph cultivates the important value and social behavior of
Chicano brotherhood but does it with humor and irony, through the depiction
of a (masked) man and a humanized dog that is both the man's buddy and
his pet. The work also evokes the cartoon, comic strips, and film and video
animation, all American art forms well-established in Chicano culture.
The cartoon lends itself to the interaction of humans and humanized animals
in a context of familiarity and friendship.
CONNECTIONS AMONG ARTWORKS
STYLE: How does the artwork look like other artworks?
"Magú" has used the image of a dog wrapping his shoulder
around a man in several other works, Hanging Out, 1986, pastel on
paper, 30" x 44" (collection of the artist) andStepping Out,
1986, pastel on paper, 30" x 44", (collection of the artist).
Luján shares with Los Four and other Chicano artists who emerged
out of the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s, a dedication to subjects
drawn from Chicano society and roots. For example, both Luján and
Frank Romero use the Chicano-stylized automobile or other "wheels"
in their work as one icon of barrio culture and mythology.
Luján, like César
A. Martínez, the Chicano artist resident in San Antonio, both
depict human figures in full frontal pose (e.g., Martínez's "El
hombre que gusta mujeres", his portrait of Sandra Cisneros, his "Pantalón
rosa"). These figures embody a concern or interest in the Chicano/Chicana
identity. While Martínez's portraits have a static quality, and
are relatively removed from space, Magú's figures are relaxed, humorous,
bantering, set in a more barrio atmosphere. Nevertheless, both artists
depict Chicano poses and projections of their identity to the world.
In his February 13, 1997 statement, Luján observes: "The
stylistic values for me were born of the movimiento's 1964 origins. In
the larger community introspection--we found our image(s) to be maligned
and certainly unbalanced in the scheme of things. Therefore the frontal
aspect of figures and cartoons were of importance for wide acceptance and
the inherent familiarity in our culture. Anyhow, it reinforces the humorous,
the popular culture that has had wide appeal among the populace."
INFLUENCE: What can I learn about how earlier artworks influenced this
artwork or about whether this artwork influenced later artworks?
Luján states that "my influences, as for most of us, are
very broad and evolutionary as my artistic development changed and refined."
He counts among his inspirers mostly sculptors, particularly Giacometti,
Henry Moore, Picasso, and Francisco Zúñiga. Zúñiga
and Diego Rivera are among his favorite Mexican artists. He also particularly
likes William King.
Luján has indicated the influence of the American tradition of
cartoons, comic strips, and animation an artwork that as he puts it, "favors
human representations (anthropomorphic as well)" as well as "folksy
Luján also has been influenced by and in turn influenced his
co-artists in the exhibition group, Los Four. These artists are Carlos
Almaraz, Beto de la Rocha, and Frank Romero.
THEMES: What general ideas connect this artwork to other artworks?
"Magú" has used the theme of comradeship, with a dog
wrapping his shoulder around a masked man in Hanging Out, 1986,
pastel on paper, 30" x 44" (collection of the artist). Also,
Stepping Out, 1986, pastel on paper, 30" x 44", (collection
of the artist), features a dog slightly behind a non-masked man, the dog
placing two fingers in the form of a v (victory sign) just behind the man's
head. Both of these images are reproduced in John Beardsley and Jane Livingston,
Hispanic Art in the United States: Thirty Contemporary Painters
and Sculptors, New York: Abbeville Press, 1987.
Other Chicano artworks related to the theme of comradeship include the
offset lithograph by Juan Fuentes, Cholo Live (1980) that features
four companions dressed in 1970s outfits stemming from the Pachucos of
the 1940s; Amado M. Peña Jr.'s Chicano Gothic (1974, silkscreen)
which features two Chicanos drinking in front of a store the wall of which
has a number of signs and Chicano movement graffiti on it; and José
Montoya's untitled ink on paper from his Pachuco series (1977), featuring
a Pachuco and his chola (girlfriend). These works are reproduced
in Richard Griswold del Castillo and others, eds., Chicano Art: Resistance
and Affirmation, 1965-1985. Wight Art Gallery: University of California,
Los Angeles, 1991.