Senga Nengudi, R.S.V.P. Reverie – “B” Suite, 1977/2011. Nylon mesh, sand, and pole, 60 x 48 x 48 inches (152.4 x 121.9 x 121.9 cm). Jeanne L. Wasserman Fund and General Acquisition Fund. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy, New York and London; and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. © Senga Nengudi
Since the 1970s, Senga Nengudi has been a leading figure of the Black avant-garde communities in Los Angeles and New York. The artist’s background as a dancer and choreographer informs her practice. In the 1970s, she began making her now iconic anthropomorphic nylon mesh sculptures and installations, which she often incorporates into her performances, testing the limits of the nylon material by manipulating, wearing, and stretching these works.
On her use of material, Nengudi explains: “I am working with nylon mesh because it relates to the elasticity of the human body…. 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.” R.S.V.P. Reverie–“B” Suite is composed from worn pantyhose filled with sand, which the artist knots and hangs from a horizontal bar. The work possesses strong corporeal references, suggesting a body stretching or in slow motion. It also activates the built space, drawing attention to corners that join walls and floors and intimate the close meeting of overlooked yet structurally significant architectural sites.
R.S.V.P. Reverie–“B” Suite is part of the artist’s R.S.V.P series, which was exhibited in her breakthrough 1977 show at Just Above Midtown Gallery, whose mission was to provide an exhibition platform for Black artists. Since then, Nengudi’s installations—which she describes as “subtle and intimate, involving issues of time and personal change”—have been exhibited widely, cementing the artist’s contributions to performance, installation, and sculpture in contemporary art. R.S.V.P. Reverie–“B” Suite was included in the ICA/Boston’s exhibition Dance/Draw in 2011.