“Sharing each others cultures through the arts provides a true bridge to a healthy respect for one another and arts education in general provides a means to stimulate the mind and exercise creative problem solving.” *
Senga Nengudi emerged as part of a group of avant-garde African-American artists active in Los Angeles and New York in the 1970s and 1980s. Her peers, members of the Studio Z collective and what came to be known as the LA Rebellion, included the artists David Hammons, Maren Hassinger, Barbara McCullough, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy and others. Informed by a shifted sociopolitical consciousness, Nengudi’s earliest work synthesized feminism, African and Japanese dance, music, and religious rituals in experimental sculptures and performances. These themes continue to inform Nengudi’s interdisciplinary practice to this day. Nengudi’s work often draws from collaboration with other artists and disciplines, including dancers and musicians. Blending natural and synthetic materials, including pantyhose, rubber and sand, her sculptures often await the activation of a human body, marking and mystifying the dynamic intimacy between us and the matter that we move through.**
R.S.V.P. grew out of Nengudi’s reflections upon the changes her body underwent during her first pregnancy, and, more generally, upon the shared experience of womanhood. With their bulbous, sand-filled forms, the pantyhose evoke what the artist describes as the elasticity of the body. “I am working with nylon mesh because it relates to the elasticity of the human body,” she explained. “From tender, tight beginnings to sagging…the body can only stand so much push and pull until it gives way, never to resume its original shape.”2 Nengudi sees the female psyche, on the other hand, as more resilient, and aims to reflect this quality in the work as well. Like the pantyhose, the “psyche can stretch, stretch, stretch and come back into shape.”***
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