Senga Nengudi emerged in the 1970s as a conceptual sculptor at the forefront of the Black American avant-garde in Los Angeles. Working at the intersection of sculpture, installation, and performance, she reimagines Post-Minimalism in terms of the Black female body, experimenting with discarded materials, ritual, and collaboration (most profoundly, her five-decade dialogue with the artist Maren Hassinger). With influences ranging from free jazz and spoken word to Yoruba mythology, Japanese theater, and Brazilian Constructivism, her work is characterized by elasticity, movement, and flux. Her iconic series of performative installations R.S.V.P. (1976–) comprise pantyhose filled with sand, knotted, and pinned to the walls or ceiling; for Water Compositions (1970), viewers were invited to prod volumes of colored liquid sealed in vinyl.
Born in Chicago in 1943, Nengudi lives and works in Colorado Springs. While earning degrees in art and dance from California State University, Los Angeles (BA, 1966; MA, 1971), she worked at the energized spaces of the Watts Towers Arts Center and the Pasadena Art Museum and spent a formative year at Waseda University, Tokyo. In the 1970s, alongside David Hammons, she belonged to the loosely organized collective Studio Z. Her earliest exhibitions were held at the legendary gallery Just Above Midtown (JAM) in New York. Recently, the survey Senga Nengudi: Topologies was organized by Lenbachhaus, Munich (2019) and traveled to Museu de Arte de São Paulo (2020), Denver Art Museum (2020), and Philadelphia Museum of Art (2021). Her work has been the subject of many solo exhibitions at museums around the world, and has featured in such significant group exhibitions as Soul of a Nation (2017); We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 (2017); Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980 (2011); and WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007). Nengudi’s work resides in such collections as the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Hammer Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and in New York, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, and Whitney Museum of American Art.