Since the 1970s, Senga Nengudi has explored the social and physical limits of the human body by alluding to gender and race through abstract sculptures and improvisational performances.
The 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. Inspired in part by her experience of motherhood, Nengudi works with nylon mesh “because it relates to the elasticity of the human body. From tender, tight beginnings to a sagging end…” Nengudi’s materials often simulate the corporeal, with nylon replacing skin and sculptural configurations suggesting the moving body.
Nengudi (née Sue Irons, American, b. 1943) was born in Chicago where she spent her early childhood. She was raised in Los Angeles, where she studied art and dance, then spent an influential year in Tokyo, Japan. As part of a radical, Black avant-garde in Los Angeles, she often collaborated with other artists including David Hammons and Maren Hassinger, among others. She lived in New York City in the early 1970s and the pioneering Just Above Midtown Gallery in Harlem featured her work in 1977.
Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures is the artist’s first solo museum survey and features work from the 1970s to the present, including documentation of early performances.
This exhibition was co-organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Gallery of Contemporary Art. It was co-curated by Nora Burnett Abrams, Curator, MCA Denver, and Elissa Auther, Windgate Research Curator, Museum of Arts and Design.
Generous support for Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures is provided by Dedrea and Paul Gray.