Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures, July 16–October 9

Posted on July 15, 2016, 1:21 pm
3 mins


This Saturday, the Henry Art Gallery opens Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures, a career survey of renowned American artist Senga Nengudi. One of the leading figures to emerge at the intersection of sculpture and performance during the second half of the twentieth century, a retrospective of Nengudi’s influential body of work is not to be missed. Born in Chicago in 1943, Nengudi was prominent within the avant-garde art scene in the 1960s and 70s in Los Angeles and New York, frequently collaborating with artists such as David Hammons and Maren Hassinger. Through a blend of visual art, modern dance, and everyday materials, including nylon mesh, sand and other found objects, Nengundi’s work utilizes what is at hand to emphasize the resilience of the disregarded, and the elasticity of the self.

As highlighted in the Henry’s press release for the exhibition:

Her approach to art has been inspired by the improvisational qualities of jazz and 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. In the past fifteen years, she 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). These sculptures are made from pantyhose that the artist stretches, twists, knots, and fills with sand and other found materials. The works evoke the human body, its elasticity and durability, and invite viewers to imagine their own bodies stretching in unexpected ways. Some of the sculptures have been engaged by the artist and other performers through dance-like movements that entangle their bodies in the materials.

Make sure not to miss a rare opportunity to see an improvised dance performance with one of Nengudi’s nylon mesh sculptures from the seminal R.S.V.P series on the opening day, Saturday, July 16.  The performance will be followed by a conversation between Nengudi and Elissa Auther, the co-curator of the exhibition. The performance and talk is free and open to the public, so make sure to RSVP online.

Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures

When: July 16–October 9, 2016

Where: Henry Art Gallery (4100 15th Ave NE)


David Strand is a writer and aspiring curator based in Seattle.