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Improvisational Gestures
Senga Nen​gudi, R.S.V.P. sculptures activated by the artist in Performance Piece, 1977/2014. Photograph copyright Harmon Outlaw, Pearl C. Wood Gallery, Los Angeles.​

Senga Nengudi »

Improvisational Gestures

Exhibition: 7 Sep – 10 Dec 2017

DePaul Art Museum

935 W Fullerton Ave
IL 60614 Chicago



Mon-Thu 11-17, Fri 11-19, Sat, Sun 12-17

Improvisational Gestures
Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures, installation view, 2017. Courtesy of DePaul Art Museum, Photograph by Lizabeth Applewhite​

The “R.S.V.P.” series of sculptures, which are made of familiar materials such as pantyhose and sand, mimic the female form but are stretched, pulled, and twisted into distended proportions. Inspired in part by her experience of motherhood, Nengudi works with nylon mesh “because it relates to the elasticity of the human body. From tender, tight beginnings to a sagging end…” Nengudi’s materials often simulate the corporeal, with nylon replacing skin and sculptural configurations suggesting the moving body.

Nengudi (née Sue Irons, American, b. 1943) was born in Chicago where she spent her early childhood. She was raised in Los Angeles, where she studied art and dance, then spent an influential year in Tokyo, Japan. As part of a radical, Black avant-garde in Los Angeles, she often collaborated with other artists including David Hammons and Maren Hassinger, among others. She lived in New York City in the early 1970s and the pioneering Just Above Midtown Gallery in Harlem featured her work in 1977.

“Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures” is the artist’s first solo museum survey and features work from the 1970s to the present, including documentation of early performances.

This exhibition was co-organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Gallery of Contemporary Art. It was co-curated by Nora Burnett Abrams, Curator, MCA Denver and Elissa Auther, Windgate Research Curator, Museum of Arts and Design.

Generous support for “Senga Nengudi: Improvistational Gestures” is provided by Dedrea and Paul Gray.

Improvisational Gestures
Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978, Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 1978/2014.
Digital Print. 25 ½ x 17 in. Photograph courtesy the artist and MCA Denver.​
Improvisational Gestures
Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978, Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 1978/2014. Digital print. 17 x 27 ½ in. © Senga Nengudi.​