(born 1943, Chicago, Illinois; lives and works in Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Senga Nengudi invented a sculptural language in her celebrated “RSVP” series of objects and performances, begun in 1975. Through sets of choreographed actions, sometimes performed in front of a camera or an audience, the artist stretches nylon stockings filled with sand into surreal and distended shapes. In the new work on view here, Nengudi pulls, twists and knots the stockings to create hanging sculptures that suggest shed skins and contours of the human body—their ephemeral nature alluding to life’s impermanence.
Nengudi studied visual art and dance in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her experiments with ritualized movement led her to try her hand at performance-based sculpture. She began working with unconventional sculptural materials such as wire, rope and nylon stockings to create installations and performance events. Her early projects led to her long-standing collaboration with Maren Hassinger, who often activates Nengudi’s nylon sculptures by performing within them. This new sculpture will be activated during the course of the exhibition by contemporary dance artists who worked directly with Nengudi and Hassinger in a workshop intensive.
Senga Nengudi received her BA from California State University, Los Angeles, where she also received her MA in sculpture in 1971. In between degrees she studied for one year at Waseda University in Tokyo. Her solo exhibitions include Performances, 1976–81, Thomas Erben Gallery, New York (2013); Lov U,Warehouse Gallery, Syracuse University, (2012); Warp Trance, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2007); R.S.V.P. Retrospective, Thomas Erben Gallery, New York (2003); Vestige—“The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus” S.D., Just Above Midtown Gallery, New York (1981); and Répondez s’il-vous-plaît, Just Above Midtown Gallery, New York (1977). Her group exhibitions include Blues for Smoke, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012–13, traveling); Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960–1980, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011, traveling); Under the Big Black Sun, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011); Los Angeles Goes Live: Los Angeles Performance Art, 1970–1983, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2011); VideoStudio: Playback, The Studio Museum in Harlem (2011); WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007, traveling); Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary, Museum of Art and Design, New York (2008); L.A. Object and David Hammons Body Prints, Jack Tilton Gallery, New York (2006); Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art since 1970, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2005); 54th Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (2004); Parallels and Intersections: Art/Women/California, 1950–2000, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA (2002); The Influence of Yoruba on Contemporary Artists, Brickhouse, London (2000); Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1998); Now-Here, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark (1996); Homecoming, Watts Towers Arts Center, Los Angeles (1995); Art as a Verb: The Evolving Continuum, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore (1989); Carnival: Ritual of Reversal, Kenkeleba House, New York (1985); Afro-American Art in the Twentieth Century: Three Episodes, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY (1980); Afro-American Abstractions, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY (1980); Freeway Fets, public art project, freeway underpass, Los Angeles (1979); The Concept as Art, Just Above Midtown Gallery, New York (1977); California Black Artists, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (1977); and Sapphire Show, Gallery 32, Los Angeles (1970).