This presentation by Senga Nengudi, a Conceptual artist operating at the intersection of performance and sculpture, represents a pivotal advancement in the artist’s innovative approach to material and offers important insight into her current practice. Nengudi became a driving force in the African American avantgarde art scene in New York and Los Angeles in the 1960s and ’70s. Her seminal work, the series “R.S.V.P.” (1975– ), comprises sand-filled pantyhose twisted and affixed to various points on a wall, and was created after her first pregnancy in response to the feeling of transformation within her own body. Much of Nengudi’s work confronts gender limitations within particular racial and cultural contexts, highlighting the impact of systematic forces through performance, video, photography, and installation.
This series, “Wet Night — Early Dawn — Scat Chat — Pilgrim’s Song” (1996/2017), has not been exhibited for over two decades. The installation incorporates plastic and dry cleaning bags, continuing the artist’s use of universal, commonplace materials, and explores her transformative time researching the practices of Gutai in Japan in 1966–67, as well as her notion of the pilgrimage. Deeply influenced by the artist’s concepts of spiritualities—or belief systems that in spite of their differences share similar constructive ideologies—the works on view are like altarpieces, while the pigment on the floor alludes to ritual burnings in Eastern cultures. Reprised for ICA Miami, Nengudi has added new and site-specific elements to the work in abstract, alluring forms that might reference garments or anthropomorphic compositions.
Nengudi (b. 1943, Chicago) has been honored with solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans (2017) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2014), among others. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at such venues as Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2015); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2013); and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011).