artist / participant
This exhibition surveys the sculpture, performance, video and related work of American artist Senga Nengudi (born 1943), dating from the 1970s to the present. Working in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Nengudi developed a singular style melding the body in movement with the use of common, everyday materials in a series of collaborative performances with her artist peers, including Maren Hassinger, Ulysses Jenkins, Franklin Parker, Houston Conwill, David Hammons, and Barbara McCullough. Trained as a dancer and a sculptor, Nengudi’s approach to art has been inspired by ritualistic performances from a wide range of sources including traditional African ceremonies, Japanese Kabuki Theater, events of the 1960s, and other forms of modern dance. The improvisational qualities of jazz are also central and informed such performances as the Afro-futuristic Ceremony for Freeway Fets (1978), which was a group dance and music hybrid staged beneath a highway overpass that turned this marginal location into a site of renewal. In the past fifteen years, Nengudi has used video to extend her performance-related interests by exploring the ritual quality of textile production and repetitive physical labor.
Nengudi is perhaps best known for her abstract sculpture, particularly her biomorphic nylon mesh series R.S.V.P. (1975 to the present). Titled with an abbreviation of the French phrase répondez s'il vous plait that translates to "please respond," these sculptures are made from pantyhose that the artist stretches, twists, knots, and fills with sand and other found materials. These works evoke the human body, its elasticity and durability, and invite viewers to imagine their own bodies stretching in unexpected ways. Some of these sculptures have been used as instruments activated by the artist and other performers through dance-like movements that entangle their bodies in the materials. In the past fifteen years, Nengudi has used video to extend her performance-related interests by exploring the ritual quality of textile production and repetitive physical labor.
Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs Gallery of Contemporary Art. The presentation at the Henry is organized by Nina Bozicnik, Assistant Curator, with support from 4Culture, ArtsFund, and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.