Senga Nengudi - Lévy Gorvy


Senga Nengudi

Senga Nengudi

Senga Nengudi came to performance through her study of dance while she was a graduate student at California State University, Los Angeles, in the late 1960s. After traveling to Japan and New York, she returned to Los Angeles in the early 1970s and became an active member of an emerging community of African American artists whose work engaged with the radical political movements developing in the United States while moving toward the more abstract, dematerialized, and conceptual artistic modes of the period. It was at this point that Nengudi began to incorporate elements inspired by Japanese Gutai and Mono-ha, African ceremonial dress, African-American improvisation, and Western vernacular vocabularies into a new visual language that would result in her seminal R.S.V.P. series.

Nengudi, along with David Hammons, Maren Hassinger, and several other artists, formed a loosely structured group called Studio Z, where they collaborated and experimented with discarded and overlooked materials and forgotten spaces. They came together at Hammons’ studio on Slauson Avenue—a large former dance hall with a wooden floor—to engage in spontaneous actions, some of which were performed on the streets of the city. Soon after her son was born in 1974, Nengudi began to use secondhand pantyhose as her primary medium. She stretched the nylon garments into various forms across walls, frequently also extending them onto the floor, and then invited a collaborator (most often Hassinger) to “activate” the works, either through dance or other types of interactions and movements. In the words of the artist, “there is a charging that takes place, an activation of mutual energy, in concert with the sculpture.”

In the performance of Masking It, the artist tore off small pieces of masking tape from a roll and stuck them all over her body, from the top of her head—including her face—to her knees. Thus adorned, she moved about her studio, experiencing the "sensualness of the tape on her body in motion." Nengudi saw this “masking” of herself as a means to explore elements of her African heritage, including mask-making, dance, and other rites and rituals.

Nengudi has been featured in many significant exhibitions, including Vive Arte Vive, curated by Christine Macel, at the 57th Venice Biennale; Improvisational Gestures, a three year-long traveling retrospective of the artist's work which was organized in 2015 by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, and traveled to the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; the DePaul Art Museum, Chicago; and the USC Fisher Museum, Los Angeles, among others. Nengudi's work was also included in the 54th Carnegie International, at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh in 2004-2005. In 2017, the solo exhibition Head Back and High: Senga Nengudi, Performance Objects (1976-2015) opened at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and traveled to Art + Practice, Los Angeles. The group exhibition We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 opened at the Brooklyn Museum in 2017, and traveled to the Albright Knox, Buffalo; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, opened the group exhibition West by Midwest, curated by Charlotte Ickes, in the fall of 2018, while in September of 2019 a retrospective of Nengudi's career, Senga Nengudi, will open at Lenbachhaus, Munich.

Nengudi's work is in the permanent collections of many major museums worldwide, including: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Brooklyn Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; and Jerusalem Museum of Art, Jerusalem.


Selected Works

  • Senga Nengudi

    Senga Nengudi.
    Performance Piece (Detail 1 of 3 prints),
    Silver gelatin prints,
    40 x 31 1/2 inches (101.6 x 80 cm),
    31 1/2 x 40 inches (80 x 101.6 cm),
    31 1/2 x 40 inches (80 x 101.6 cm).
    © Senga Nengudi.

  • Senga Nengudi's photographs Performance Piece, 1978

    Senga Nengudi.
    Performance Piece,
    Silver gelatin prints,
    40 x 31 1/2 inches (101.6 x 80 cm),
    31 1/2 x 40 inches (80 x 101.6 cm),
    31 1/2 x 40 inches (80 x 101.6 cm).
    © Senga Nengudi.

  • Senga Nengudi's sculpture A.C.Q. III, 2016-17

    Senga Nengudi.
    A.C.Q. III,
    Refrigerator parts, nylon pantyhose,
    132 x 96 inches (335.3 x 243.8 cm).
    © Senga Nengudi.

  • Senga Nengudi's photographs Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978

    Senga Nengudi.
    Ceremony for Freeway Fets,
    11 C-prints,
    Each photograph, vertical: 18 x 12 inches (45.7 x 30.5 cm),
    Each photograph, large horizontal: 13 x 18 inches (33 x 45.7 cm),
    Each photograph, small horizontal: 12 x 18 inches (30.5 x 45.7 cm).
    Overall installation: variable.
    © Senga Nengudi.
    Photo: Quaku / Roderick Young.

  • Senga Nengudi's sculpture R.S.V.P., 2004

    Senga Nengudi.
    Nylon mesh and sand.
    71 5/8 x 59 7/8 x 24 inches (182 x 152 x 61 cm).
    © Senga Nengudi.



Senga Nengudi Venice Biennale 2017

June 29, 2017

Interview with Senga Nengudi (United States), one of the artists invited to participate in the 57th International Art Exhibition - Viva Arte Viva in 2017.


Museum Exhibitions


Selected Press

Artforum | Curator Lynne Cook's Year in Review

December 16, 2021

Senga Nengudi came to performance through her study of dance while she was a graduate student at California …

Numéro | 5 artistes chamboulent le corps féminin au MO.CO

November 24, 2021

La collectionneuse Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo a ouvert sa collection privée au Mo.Co. de Montpellier.

The Brooklyn Rail | You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: The Sapphire Show

July 1, 2021

The Sapphire Show, the first known exhibition dedicated to Black women artists in the United States, …

Artblog | Senga Nengudi’s ‘Topologies’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Part 2

June 1, 2021

After graduate school Senga Nengudi became involved with a group of African American visual and performing …

The New York Times | Gehry’s Quiet Interventions Reshape the Philadelphia Museum

May 30, 2021

No billowing sails of glass or glimmering titanium in the renovation of the museum's Beaux Arts home. …

6ABC | The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a new history-making exhibition

May 30, 2021

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a new history-making exhibition showcasing an artist who was a leader …

The Philadelphia Inquirer | Artist Senga Nengudi reflects on her exhibition in Philly, her largest to date

May 26, 2021

Nengudi, who made her name as a leader of the Black American avant-garde in the 1970s , has a career …

Arts Summary | Senga Nengudi: Topologies at Philadelphia Museum of Art, May 2 – July 25, 2021

May 1, 2021

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be the only East Coast venue for a major traveling exhibition devoted …


April 28, 2021

Nengudi’s work in all its indefinable glory will this week become the subject of a survey at the Philadelphia …

Hyperallergic | Senga Nengudi: Topologies Opens May 2 at Philadelphia Museum of Art

April 23, 2021

In one of the most expansive exhibitions to date, Senga Nengudi: Topologies traces the artist’s career …

Hyperallergic | Senga Nengudi: Topologies Opens May 2 at Philadelphia Museum of Art

April 23, 2021

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the only East Coast venue for a major traveling exhibition devoted …

The Wall Street Journal | ‘Knotted, Torn, Scattered: Sculpture After Abstract Expressionism’ Review: Mutable Materials

April 14, 2021

The exhibition is a stunner in that quiet way a well-chosen and adroitly staged show of moderately unspectacular …

Communique | International Artist Senga Nengudi to be featured at Ent Center for the Arts

March 18, 2021

Internationally recognized artist Senga Nengudi will present at the Ent Center for the Arts at UCCS to …

Forbes | In An Exhibition At The Denver Art Museum, Senga Nengudi Charts The Journey Of Her Own Body

December 29, 2020

Senga Nengudi: Topologies, an exhibition of over 70 of Nengudi’s works currently on display at the …

The Know – The Denver Post | Denver Art Museum’s Senga Nengudi retrospective is as powerful as the artist herself

December 21, 2020

The exhibit covers 40 years of work in a variety of media and documents Nengudi’s participation in …

303 Magazine | Denver Art Museum Unveils Exhibition of Abstract Work by a Colorado Artist

December 17, 2020

Senga Nengudi is a Colorado-based artist who was one of the most prominent artists working during the …

Westword | Body Politics: Behind the DAM’s Senga Nengudi Restrospective

December 11, 2020

Topologies includes many of Nengudi’s signature pieces, which often fall between performance art and …

MoMA Magazine | Megan Randall on Senga Nengudi’s R.S.V.P. I

December 11, 2020

Conservator Megan Randall talks about working on Senga Nengudi’s 1977/2003 sculpture R.S.V.P I during …

Westword | Art Attack: Ten Ways to See Art Live or Otherwise

December 9, 2020

The Denver Art Museum slips in a year-ending tour de force from Colorado Springs-based, internationally …

Widewalls | A Response to Being Black - The Art of the Great Senga Nengudi

December 3, 2020

One prolific artist affiliated with BAM, and a significant contributor to the development of Black American …

T: The New York Times Style Magazine | THE ARTISTS

April 23, 2020

Senga Nengudi came to performance through her study of dance while she was a graduate student at California …

Art in America | Senga Nengudi’s Works Stretch, Contract, and Breathe New Purpose Into Found Materials

February 24, 2020

Among an array of archival documents and photos in a vitrine at the entrance to the Lenbachhaus’s Senga …

Spike Art Magazine | Senga Nengudi at Lenbachhaus

November 21, 2019

In the 1970s, Colorado-based artist Senga Nengudi worked in Los Angeles as part of an emerging community …

Triumph der elastischen Frau

November 6, 2019

Eigentlich hat man sich spätestens seit den Nylon-Welten eines Ernesto Neto an übermäßig langgestreckten …

Inside Hook | A Practical Guide to the New, Improved Museum of Modern Art

November 6, 2019

Don’t go to the new MoMA on a rainy Sunday. I understand the temptation — what could be a more ideal …

Artsy | How Artists Reclaimed Pantyhose to Make Provocative Sculptures

October 4, 2019

Bedeaux’s own interest in the way artists have returned to pantyhose was sparked after she saw Senga …

The Guardian | Tights in art: why nylons are fetish and fantasy gold

October 1, 2019

While Gossamer is a witty, knowing exhibition, it approaches hosiery with barely a smirk, for tights …

Frieze | Highlights from ‘Various Others’ – Munich’s Gallery-Share Initiative

September 19, 2019

From Senga Nengudi’s pantyhose sculptures to Andrea Büttner’s iPhone etchings, a selection of shows …

Apollo Magazine | WHAT'S ON: Senga Nengudi

September 19, 2019

Born in Chicago in 1943, Senga Nengudi has developed a singular practice fusing sculpture and performance …

Denver Post | Seen: Artist Nengudi honored at Bonfils-Stanton Foundation awards

June 5, 2019

What do pantyhose, masking tape, gravel, sand, dirt and seed pods have in common? They’re elements …

The Skinny | Hold Water: Senga Nengudi's Solo Show in Edinburgh

March 12, 2019

Senga Nengudi is one of the foremost of the avant garde black art scene extending from the 1970s in the …

Artforum | College Art Association Announces Its 2019 Award Recipients

January 18, 2019

Honorees of this year’s College Art Association awards include Howardena Pindell, Ursula von Rydingsvard, …

The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Museum of Art acquires 48 new works, some with funds from sale of major pieces

December 19, 2018

The acquisitions, announced today by museum officials, include paintings by Meleko Mokgosi and Amy Sherald; …

Ursula | Making Doors - Linda Goode Bryant in Conversation with Senga Nengudi

December 1, 2018

The following conversation between Bryant and Nengudi was recorded in Bryant's Upper West Side apartment …

Makers & Founders | Senga Nengudi

November 15, 2018

Senga Nengudi came to performance through her study of dance while she was a graduate student at California …

Sculpture | "Senga Nengudi"

October 30, 2018

As far as symbolism is concerned, certain materials arrive ready-made, freighted with meaning. The protean …

Frieze | Yield To Touch

October 15, 2018

As a member of a radical generation of Los Angeles-based artists who emerged during the turbulent Civil …

Culture Type | Looking in London: 10 Exhibitions to See This Season Featuring Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, and Adam Pendleton Among Others

October 7, 2018

This career-spanning exhibition is described as the most comprehensive to date of Senga Nengudi. Her …

Hyperallergic | “Being Born Black in America Is a Political Act”: An Interview With Senga Nengudi

September 25, 2018

In advance of her first retrospective outside the US, avant-garde artist Senga Nengudi discusses her …

ARTnews | ‘Interrogate the World as It Is and Imagine How It Could Be’: Four Trailblazing Artists in ‘Soul of a Nation’ Discuss the Show and Their Careers

September 20, 2018

After stops at Tate Modern in London and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, …

Artnet | Here Are 5 Women Artists Who Dominated Berlin Gallery Weekend, Despite Evidence of German Gender Bias

May 3, 2018

Senga Nengudi came to performance through her study of dance while she was a graduate student at California …

Los Angeles Times | Spring art exhibitions that transport to Laguna, Teotihuacan, Iran and beyond

March 22, 2018

Nengudi, whose work is also on view in a survey at USC Fisher Museum of Art, was among a major group …

Modern Art Notes Podcast | SENGA NENGUDI

March 8, 2018

Senga Nengudi came to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s with abstract sculpture made from common materials, …

The New York Times | A Groundbreaking Show Presents a New, Inclusive Vision of American Art

February 15, 2018

Then the show turns to work by the second group, an imposing cadre of trained artists working in Los …

Vogue | The Women to Watch at Art Basel Miami

December 5, 2017

Senga Nengudi, the increasingly influential artist who works with objects familiar to women’s everyday …

Chicago Tribune | Senga Nengudi stretches the limits of womanhood

September 20, 2017

“I don’t believe in spoon-feeding the meaning of a piece,” she says. “That’s why I called my …

The New York Times | The 10 Best Things We Saw at the Venice Biennale

May 16, 2017

Senga Nengudi debuted her “R.S.V.P.” sculptures in the ’70s, and since then the artist has continually …

Artnews | A Look at ‘Viva Arte Viva,’ the Hippie, Heal-the-World Venice Biennale

May 9, 2017

From the moment you walk into the main pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, it is apparent that the …

Flash Art | Christine Macel on VIVA ARTE VIVA / 57th Venice Biennale

May 3, 2017

“VIVA ARTE VIVA” is the title of the 57th International Art Exhibition in Venice, curated by Christine …

Vogue | Beyond the French Quarter: Experiencing New Orleans Like a Local

April 25, 2017

The CAC’s talented head curator, and former New Yorker, Andrea Andersson, is the brains behind two …

Artsy | The 20 Best Booths at The Armory Show

March 2, 2017

This sparse but powerful presentation convenes both the historic and recent works of radical performance …

Art News | Visions for Pantyhose and Sand: Senga Nengudi’s Booth at the Armory Show

March 2, 2017

Senga Nengudi, who started her career in the fertile African-American art scene of 1960s and ’70s Los …

The Seattle Times | Artist Senga Nengudi uses pantyhose in surprising ways

September 14, 2016

“Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures,” at the Henry Art Gallery, surveys her sculpture, performance …

Artforum | Senga Nengudi

September 1, 2015

Senga Nengudi trained as both an artist and a dancer in the 1960s and continues to work across a variety …

Hyperallergic | The Improvised Body: The Reemergence of Senga Nengudi

September 6, 2014

The artist Senga Nengudi was recently honored with dual retrospectives of her work at Denver’s Museum …

Artforum | Senga Nengudi

April 3, 2014

WHEN I BEGAN WORKING, it was very personal. I wanted to express how I was feeling about my body and my mind.

The New York Times | Senga Nengudi: ‘Performances 1976-81’

February 14, 2013

Senga Nengudi was recently featured in “Now Dig This! Art & Black Los Angeles 1960-1980” at MoMA …

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