Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures

Exhibition Website

Sep 7 2017 - Dec 10 2017

Since the 1970’s Senga Nengudi’s avant-garde performative and sculptural practice has explored the social and physical limits of the human body. Her R.S.V.P. series of sculptures, which are made of familiar materials such as pantyhose and sand, mimic the female form - but are stretched, pulled, and twisted into distended proportions. Some of the works included in this exhibition began as performance-based sculptures. Nengudi would activate these works by staging choreographed actions while entangled in the stockings.

The first museum survey of these sculptures, this exhibition features work from the 1970s to the present, including documentation of early performances and her first video installation, Warp Trance, which she made in 2007 at the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

Whether or not you go, Senga Nengudi tells the story of Colorado-based artist Senga Nengudi (born 1943). In the 1970s, she worked in Los Angeles as part of an emerging community of African American artists that engaged with multiple radical political movements underway in the US and around the globe, including the Black Power and feminist movements. Using quotidian materials to create installations, sculptures, performances and videos, these artists were key participants in the emergence of a postminimal aesthetic. 

This volume features Nengudi’s recent nylon mesh pantyhose and sand sculptures that respond directly to her performative, biomorphic series Répondez s’il vous plaît (RSVP) (1975–77). Engaging in a dialogue with both postminimalism and second-wave feminism, the stretched, twisted and knotted fabric of the RSVP works and more recent Reverie sculptures recall contorted flesh. Nengudi’s corporeal sculptures, which often suggest genitalia and breasts, take on feminist associations as “part-objects” (to use psychoanalyst Melanie Klein’s term) in the absence of adjoining bodies.

Senga Nengudi

  • American
  • Contemporary
  • Senga Nengudi

Exhibition Venues & Dates