The Anne de Villepoix gallery is presenting Senga Nengudi for the first time. Senga Negudi was born Sue Irons in Chicago in 1937. At the age of seven, she and her mother, settled in California, moving several times between Los Angeles and Pasadena. Nengudi majored in art and minored in dance at California State University , Los Angeles (CSULA), earning a Bachelor’s Degree in 1966. After a year at Waseda University in Tokyo, she returned to CSULA for graduate studies. While a student, she volunteered at the Watts Towers Arts Center and worked as a teaching assistant at the Pasadena Art Museum . Both experiences further shaped her artistic interests. The Watts Towers program emphasized experimentation with materials and community–based art practices. Then, Nengudi moved to East Harlem upon receiving her master’s degree in sculpture in 1971 and quickly became part of a community of African American artists there.
Although seemingly mundane, the materials Nengudi has chosen to work with take on multiple meanings in her hands. Both corporeal and societal limitations of the female body are explored through pantyhose. Stretched, filled, knotted, and pulled, the stockings assume biomorphic qualities that are both grotesque and beautiful. They speak to the endurance of the human body and in particular , the female body in its physical transformations. Panty—hose filled with sand droop and sag, their forms resembling a mother’s womb or weighty breasts. When stretched and twisted , they evoke pain and violence, especially when their legs are pulled apart.
The pictures, presented here, are mostly coming from performances she made, like « Rapuntzel ». She created a head/face piece of nylon mesh as a farewell to a brick building she liked and which was going to be demolished. For « Study for Mesh Mirage », she created a costume to explore African and Japanese cultural connections (Noh theater and African ceremonial practices).
Her pieces are part of the MOMA collections, Studio Harlem, and Brooklyn museum among others.
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