Critics’ Picks

Senga Nengudi, Untitled, 2011, nylon mesh, sand, pole, 60 x 48 x 18".

Senga Nengudi, Untitled, 2011, nylon mesh, sand, pole, 60 x 48 x 18".

New York

Senga Nengudi

Lévy Gorvy | New York
909 Madison Avenue
September 10–October 24, 2015

Senga Nengudi trained as both an artist and a dancer in the 1960s and continues to work across a variety of mediums: sculpture, performance, photography, and more. As is evident in her current presentation, her practice abstracts and dematerializes bodily form while referencing its kinetic energy and elastic potential. Nengudi’s most moving group of works is her nylon mesh sculptures fashioned out of used pantyhose, three examples of which are included here. Untitled, 2011, features four of the leggings stretched tightly to the floor and weighted gracefully with sand. The ready-made garments are secured to a pole fastened in the gallery’s corner, evoking ballet dancers in tights in the midst of barre work. An adjacent photograph, Performance Piece, 1978, pictures artist Maren Hassinger performing within one of the twisted weaves of Nengudi’s pantyhose pieces, activating Nengudi’s sculptures and embodying them with a dynamic dancer’s presence.

Nengudi’s 1978 performance Ceremony for Freeway Fets is also chronicled, in eleven vivid photographs. At the time of its creation Nengudi was involved with Studio Z, a loose affiliation of artists in Los Angeles, including Hassinger, David Hammons, Barbara McCullough, and others who experimented collaboratively with discarded materials and abandoned spaces. Set under a nondescript freeway overpass in the car-bound metropolis, Nengudi wrapped the supporting columns in her sculptural nylon mesh forms and outfitted her performers in these customary creations as headdresses and drapery. Bodies bound across the images in flitting festivity, sculpture and performance creatively enmeshed. Nengudi’s work, as an antecedent example of the current commingling of the plastic and the performative, remains pioneering for our contemporary moment.