ABOUT THE ARTWORK
SUBJECT MATTER: What subject matter (people, places, or things) can I find in the artwork?
Gilbert Luján's Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie shows two human-like dogs about to meet. Hot Dog wears pants and a shirt and is striding forward. La Fufú wears a blouse and skirt. She, too, strides forward taking her dog for a walk on a leash. The two main figures both seem active. They swing their arms and, with their mouths open, seem ready to speak. Hot Dog and La Fufú approach on intersecting sidewalks bordered by small fences. Along and inside the fences are small plants, including cacti. A large black rabbit also sits within the fenced area.
When asked about the small colored shapes extending from Hot Dog's arms and legs, Luján explained that "all of us, in physiological terms, are electromagnetic force fields and, if we were visually able [we could see] auras. And I am just visually making a little note that some of us do this." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
TOOLS, MATERIALS, AND PROCESSES: What can I learn about how the artwork was made?)
Gilbert Luján constructed Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie by cutting and folding cardboard, which he strengthened with white glue. When dry cardboard saturated with white glue dries it becomes very hard and durable. He painted his cardboard construction with acrylic paint. He covered the surfaces inside the fences and along the sidewalk with loose sand. He also included a commercially produced item (the rabbit) in his work.
Luján probably made a drawing in preparation for making Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie. He has said that he likes "to draw things out. I draw excessively. I'm always drawing." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
SENSORY ELEMENTS: What visual elements do I see in the artwork? (line, color, shape, light and dark, texture, mass, and space)
The forms of Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie are built up of flat planes that suggest mass when combined. Compare the two main figures viewed from the front of the sculpture and from the left side Notice that the plane of Hot Dog's body faces forward while the planes of his arms are angled in other directions. In contrast La Fufú's body arms legs and head all are in the same profile plane. Her figure is enhanced with the addition of a crushed paper skirt. La Fufú's little pooch is a simple pyramid shape with a planar head. A triangular cut at the base of the pyramid distinguishes the front legs from back legs.
The construction is painted with many different bright colors, including red, green, blue, and golden orange. Textures range from dry sand to rough-cut cardboard to slick painted surfaces. Although some cactus shapes are curved, most shapes, including the fences and dogs are straight edged. The tiny, brightly painted shapes extending back from Hot Dog's arms suggest quick movement.
FORMAL ORGANIZATION: How do the elements in the artwork work together? (For example, are parts repeated, balanced, emphasized, contrasted?)
When seen from above Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie is organized in a rectangular grid. The planar masses are rather evenly distributed within the spaces defined by the fences. At the intersection of the sidewalks is the largest empty space, into which the two main figures seem to be moving.
REPRODUCTION: What can I learn about how this reproduction (digitized or printed image) is different from the original artwork? (size, angle of view, surface texture, etc.)
Details can best be viewed in the largest reproduction of Gilbert Luján's Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie. However, only the Quicktime Virtual Reality reproduction provides anything like the complex visual experience of walking around the original artwork. Notice how figures overlap each other and how shapes can be viewed through openings in other shapes as one views the construction from different angles.
CONDITION: What can I learn about the condition (broken, restored, dirty) of the artwork? How did it look when it was new?
An earlier photograph of Gilbert Luján's Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie shows a small cardboard rabbit, which was apparently lost or damaged, and has been replaced with a painted wooden rabbit.
The surface of the loose sand shifts and changes as it is moved or touched.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ART MAKER
ART MAKER'S LIFE: Who made the artwork? What are the circumstances of the art maker's life?
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.
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 California, Irvine, where he earned an M.F.A. In addition to art Luján sampled a wide range of courses as a college student. At the University of California Berkley he took classes in anthropology and geology. He has said "I took classes in everything you could imagine and I look at my work now and see all of that there." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
Luján has worked collaboratively with many well-known Chicano artists through the years. From 1976-1981, Luján taught at the La Raza Studies Department at Fresno City College (where he became chair of the department in 1980).
FUNCTIONAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about how the artwork was used?
"Not only do I want to speak and articulate Chicano experience, but also I want to solve things -- graphically and visually as an artist. It isn't enough for me just to do content. I got to do something with the content. So, I was trying to find something that was very simple. One of the other motives was to show young kids what could be done with simple things that you would find around the house, including cardboard." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
CULTURAL CONTEXT: What can I determine about what people thought, believed, or did in the culture in which the artwork was made?
Gilbert Luján has said that "We [Chicanos] are not one thing. Chicanos, we're all kinds of things; we are multisexual preference; we are multicultural; we are multireligions; we are multilingual; we are all these multi's in front of what we are. But in the sixties, there was always an attempt to unify us into this one image. It never worked. Why? We are all these different beings, So some of us eat Cheerios; some of us are even Republicans." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
Luján has described himself as macho, a term sometimes associated with Mexican American culture, often stereotypically by the mainstream American culture. Elaborating on his self-identification as macho in a traditional Hispanic sense, Luján emphasizes the traditional male role of family provider. "Men can also be sensitive. Women, you can teach us. We are a bit dense but we are another breed. We are not the same as women, and we should not be made into women, but we should be made to understand. We have to be sensitive and considerate of some of the things that women have taught us. I would definitely acknowledge that. But at the same time, I am a macho. I'm a macho of the definition that came from my generation, which meant to protect your family. It doesn't have the Anglo definition of machismo." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
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. (Luján, Gilbert. Letter to Gary Keller Cárdenas, 13 February, 1997.)
Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie is also excellent example of the rasquache [pron. RA-SKWA-CHE] sensibility. (Click here for more about rasquache.) 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 harassed 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. Chicano art that is rasquache usually expresses an underdog, have-not sensibility that is also resourceful and adaptable and makes use of simple materials including found ones, such as Luján's cardboard, glue, and loose sand.
ARTWORLD CONTEXT: What can I learn about the art ideas, beliefs about art, and art activities that were important in the culture in which the artwork was made?
Luján first studied art at East Los Angeles Junior College and later at California State University, Long Beach, where he earned a B.A. and then at the University of California, Irwine, 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 aesthetic direction and finding its articulation in Chicano art. He also organized artists' 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 other institutions.
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.
Gilbert Luján's Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie is an assemblage, or constructed sculpture. Luján explains that "assemblage art and constructions of this kind are not new to the art world. I was just making them specific to our [Chicano] culture. This is our voice." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
VIEWPOINTS FOR INTERPRETATION
MAKER'S INTENTION: What can I learn about why the maker wanted the artwork to look the way it does?
Gilbert Luján has written generally about his intentions as a artist. "The making of art entails numerous conglomerations of influences, choices, decisions, intentions, and worldly forces. It requires knowledge, discipline, emotions, rationale, and direction. These factors are not all inclusive but are some of the elementary aspects to me.
"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)." (Luján, Gilbert. Letter to Gary Keller Cárdenas, 13 February, 1997.)
Gilbert Luján has also expressed a range of interpretations of the dog subject matter in his artworks. "This is why I picked the dog image originally. What I wanted was to find an icon that would represent my efforts as a Chicano. Indigenous, because the Mexican pyramid can not be confused with anything else. It is very clearly from this hemisphere. And, one day I was cutting this little pyramid. I inverted these two images and I saw this dog howling and it occurred to me immediately -- I had an image. [Notice that the body of La Fufu's dog, when viewed directly from above, is indeed a simple triangular form made from folded cardboard.] And so I started making everything: pyramid-dog architecture, pyramid-dog airplane, pyramid-dog peanut putter. So I was crazy with this pyramid-dog business." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
Luján's dog ideas seem to have evolved. He has also offered a more personal explanation of his choice of the dog as subject matter. "I never thought I was going to do dogs. But most people said, 'You are a dog, Magu.' You do what you are, right? I really would like to be funny, but I think dogs and men may not be so different. Remember dogs are loyal; they are good pets. Remember the dog is really a trickster." (December 10, 1998. "Latina/Latino Artists Discussing Their Works: I," 1848/1898@1998: Transhistorical Thresholds Conference, Arizona State University).
ARTWORLD VIEWER UNDERSTANDING: What can I determine about how the person(s) for whom the artwork was made (for example, a patron, user, or other viewer of the time) understand it?
The work of Gilbert Luján is well recognized by his inclusion in prominent exhibitions of and publications about Chicano art. His work has been exhibited at the Municipal Art Gallery in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Galería de la Raza in San Francisco, the Old City Print Shop in Los Angeles, the Movimiento Artistico Río Salado (MARS) Artspace in Phoenix, the Galería Otra Vez in Los Angeles, and the Galería Posada in Sacramento.
Luján is recognized as one of the pioneers of Chicano art. "At the same time, several important museums in the United States, Mexico, and around the world began to take notice of Chicano art. In 1974, the Los Angeles City Museum of Art presented the Los Four exhibition of the work of Carlos Almaraz, Roberto de la Rocha, Gilbert Luján, and Frank Romero. The artists used imagery, iconography, and visual elements to illustrate the ambience of Chicano urban neighborhoods. (David R. Maciel, 1991, "Mexico in Aztlán and Aztlán in Mexico: The Dialectics of Chicano-Mexicano Art" in Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmationedited by Richard Griswold Del Castillo, Teresa McKenna, and Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano. Los Angeles, CA: Wight Art Gallery and the University of California, Los Angeles, p. 116.)
CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING: What can I learn about how the artwork was understood within the culture in which it was made?
The work closely evokes the Mexican-American urban environment of the Southwest as reflected in such cities Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, or Albuquerque, where the barrios (neighborhoods) often consist of small houses with yards. Barrio life including the walking of dogs and urban courtship is evoked and somewhat parodized through humor, distance and the use of cartoon-like dogs instead of humans. The title of the work emphasizes and humorizes stereotypical gender behaviors in an urban environment. The work's use of "Hot Dog" evokes the traditional meaning of an overeager male who is waiting for La Fufú (a coquettish female) to pass by, presumably to engage in some courtship repartee.
CONNECTIONS AMONG ARTWORKS
STYLE: How does the artwork look like other artworks?
Many artworks by Gilbert Luján's share a distinctive personal style, characterized by brightly colored, humorous representations of his preferred dog and car subject matter. Compare his three dimensional Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie with his two dimensional Me and My Compadre, made in classic Luján style.
With respect to the rasquache sensibility (playful and irreverant) that the work evokes, this sensibility also infuses a number of other art works. Eva Sperling Cockcroft observes that: "This rasquache, barrio 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." (Click here for more information on this rasquache aspect of Chicano art.)
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 on artwork that as he puts it, "favors human representations (anthropomorphic as well)" as well as "folksy characters."
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 help connect this artwork to other artworks?
A humorous theme of Gilbert Luján's Hot Dog Meets La Fufú con su Poochie is seen in the work of fellow Chicano artists, Frank Romero, Larry Yáñez, and Alexander Maldonado, but also in work by many other contemporary artists, including Malcolm Cochran , Jim Reinders, and Sandy Skogland.
Life in an urban neighborhood is a theme explored by other contemporary artists including John Biggers, Michael Cummings , James Mason and Elaine Mason , John Outterbridge, and Joseph Stella.