The contemporary art world lost one of its most invigorating and pioneering creative forces when Gilbert “Magú” Luján passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 70. A statement posted to the Magulandia Facebook page noted that he had died in the company of his immediate family. Future updates would be given to friends and fans alike on how they can help celebrate Luján's life. The influential Chicano sculptor, muralist and painter battled cancer; supporters organized fundraising events such as an August “Cruisin' Magulandia” benefit exhibition in Pomona, where all proceeds will be donated to the preservation of his artistic legacy.
“Our brother Gilbert 'Magú' Luján, will always be recognized as one of those who invented the vocabulary and aesthetics of what is today called Chicano Art,” says María Elena Gaitan who is scheduled to provide the music as “Chola con Cello” at the special preview reception of the exhibit. “He was a man with deep love for his family and community and one of the kindest, most loving and generous human beings I have ever met.”
Luján's work definitely left a deep indelible mark on what constituted art and culture in Southern California and beyond. His creative output has always been a rich amalgamation of the historical arc of his people from Meso-American folk to lowrider culture. As the Chicano movement continued into the early '70s, he completed his Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of California, Irvine and became founder of the famous “Los Four” Chicano art collective. Together with Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, and Beto de la Rocha, Luján contributed to artistically articulating and helping manifest the vibrancy of the social movement. Los Four famously broke new ground in 1974 by putting on the first ever Chicano Art exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Luján returned to Orange County as recently as the spring of 2008. Together with Beto de la Rocha and other participating artists, he was present for the very well attended opening of the Azul, Verde y Colorado exhibit organized at SolArt Gallery in Santa Ana. “I think the community spirit and feeling that we have today must grow and expand,” Luján says to the crowd in video collage of the event before the music of son jarocho strikes its first note.
The Magulandia website has been updated today to include a PayPal donation to assist the family as well as a new page for those to post and share their memories of Luján. “He had infinite patience for the youth and for seekers of knowledge and culture and no tolerance for injustice, snobbery or gatekeepers and abusers of power,” Chola con Cello says of her friend in memoriam. “He will be remembered for his laughter, for his gentle ways, for his beautiful children and grandchildren, for his friendships and for his inability to live any other life than that of an artist.”