CHICAGO — In
the 1970s, artist Senga Nengudi would carry pantyhose and other supplies for
her “R.S.V.P.” series of sculptures around in her bag. Born in Chicago and a
pioneer of performative art, Nengudi would stage choreographic actions within
the works of nylon and sand.
DePaul Art Museum will host a touring exhibition of Nengudi’s work,
including documentation of her earliest performances. “Senga Nengudi:
Improvisational Gestures” will be held on DePaul University’s Lincoln Park
Campus Sept. 7-Dec. 10 and is co-organized by Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and the Gallery of Contemporary Art
at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
Nengudi is one of the most important American artists of the past 50 years, yet
she is still under-recognized,” said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director and
chief curator of the DePaul Art Museum. “Her work continues to be relevant as
we think about the body, identity and ways art can be innovative and connect
installed, Nengudi’s sculptures mimic the female form but are stretched, pulled
and twisted into distended proportions. Nengudi was inspired by her experience
of motherhood and depicts the elasticity, fragility and strength of the body,
Irons in 1943, the artist spent her early childhood in Chicago. She was raised
and educated in Los Angeles and Pasadena,
California, then spent an influential year in Tokyo where she studied noh and buto theatre performance
styles. The ritual of theatre and the everyday routine of putting on pantyhose merge
in her sculptures. “There is a hybrid,
intercultural dialog in the work about inclusiveness and bringing people
together,” said Widholm.
The work is
also connected to Nengudi’s perspective as a black woman artist in the 1970s. As
part of a radical black avant-garde that included contemporary artists David
Hammons and Maren Hassinger, Nengudi lived in New York City and had a solo
exhibition in 1977 at the pioneering Just Above Midtown Gallery in Harlem.
exhibition is co-curated by Windgate Research Curator Elissa Auther of the Museum
of Design, and Nora Burnett Abrams of MCA Denver. Nengudi and Abrams will give a
gallery talk Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. and will discuss the exhibition and the artist's
practice over the last four decades. Performers will activate works in the
“R.S.V.P.” series of sculptures immediately following the talk.
The museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 5 pm. Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission is free. Additional information at http://museums.depaul.edu or 773-325-7506.
Julie Rodrigues Widholm
Kristin Claes Mathews