Dominique Lévy, New York
September 10 - October 24, 2015
Senga Nengudi (2015) was the first exhibition presented with the artist at Dominique Lévy. Begum Yasar organized the selection of recent sculptures and 1970s performance stills. The exhibition featured recent nylon mesh pantyhose and sand sculptures that respond directly to Nengudi’s performative, biomorphic, and political series Répondez s’il vous plaît (RSVP) (1975–77). Engaging in a dialogue with postminimalism and second-wave feminism, the stretched, twisted, and knotted fabric of the RSVP works and more recent Reverie sculptures recall contorted flesh. Nengudi’s corporeal forms, which often suggest genitalia and breasts, take on feminist associations as part-objects in the absence of adjoining bodies. The sculptural works on view invite meditation on the physically and socially imposed limitations on the female body while presenting a formal exploration of the sensual tactility of flesh and skin as universals.
Also exhibited were photographic performance stills of important 1970s works, including Performance Piece (1978), Ceremony for Freeway Fets (1978), and Masking It (1978–79). These photographs document the intertwining of dance and sculpture in Nengudi’s early work and register the diverse social and artistic traditions from which that work drew inspiration. Among Nengudi’s influences were Nigerian Gelede spectacles, the public displays of colorful masks in which art and ritualistic dance combine to celebrate the power and spiritual capacity of female elders and ancestors. Other influences included the avant-garde dance-drama of classical Japanese Kabuki theater and the multimedia, experimental spirit of international Fluxus Happenings.