Senga Nengudi: Topologies at Philadelphia Museum of Art, May 2 – July 25, 2021

“The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be the only East Coast venue for a major traveling exhibition devoted to Senga Nengudi, a leading figure of the 1970s Black American avant-garde and a pioneering artist of our time. Marked by her innovative use of everyday materials that range from water and sand to pantyhose and air conditioning units, Nengudi’s work bridges the mediums of sculpture and performance, offering a cross-disciplinary investigation into the personal experiences of the Black female body and the collective practices of community and ritual. Senga Nengudi: Topologies will trace the expansive range of the artist’s career and context from the 1970s to today through a combination of more than 70 artworks, including sculptures, environmental installations, and archival documentation. Shown together, they affirm Nengudi’s pivotal role in redefining the possibilities of sculpture and abstraction, and exemplify the continuing vitality and urgency of her practice. The exhibition will be presented in the museum’s Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries and is accompanied by a major catalogue.” — Philadelphia Museum of Art

 “My art responds to being Black, being a woman, and being of a certain age. The artworks you’ll see on display represent someone who has had children, cared for her mother, and experienced many of the things life has to offer.” — Senga Nengudi

“Water Composition I,” 1970; reconstructed 2020 by Senga Nengudi. © Senga Nengudi.
“Inside/Outside,” 1977 by Senga Nengudi. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München, Sammlung KiCo. © Senga Nengudi.
“Rubber Maid,” 2011 by Senga Nengudi Collection of Amy Gold and Brett Gorvy. Thomas Erben Gallery, New York; Lévy Gorvy, New York and London. © Senga Nengudi.
“Untitled contact sheet,” 1977 by Senga Nengudi. Senga Nengudi Papers, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, La. © Senga Nengudi.
“Performance Piece” (detail), 1977 by Senga Nengudi. Activated by Maren Hassinger. Photograph by Harmon Outlaw. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München, Sammlung KiCo. © Senga Nengudi.
“Performance Piece,” 1977 by Senga Nengudi. Activated by Maren Hassinger. Photographs by Harmon Outlaw. Courtesy of Sprüth Magers, Thomas Erben Gallery, and Lévy Gorvy. © Senga Nengudi.
“Untitled,” 1977 by Senga Nengudi. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Senga Nengudi Papers, 1948–2016. © Senga Nengudi.
“Study for Mesh Mirage,” 1978 by Senga Nengudi. Photograph by Adam Avila. Courtesy of ProWinkoProArt Collection. © Senga Nengudi.
“Ceremony for Freeway Fets” (detail), 1978 by Senga Nengudi. Photograph by Roderick Kwaku Young. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München, Sammlung KiCo © Senga Nengudi.
“Masked Taping,” 1978/79 by Senga Nengudi. Photograph by Adam Avila. Denver Art Museum: Purchased with funds from Contemporary Alliance, 2020.565A-C. Courtesy of Sprüth Magers, Thomas Erben Gallery, and Lévy Gorvy. © Senga Nengudi.
“A.C.Q. I,” 2016-2017 by Senga Nengudi. Denver Art Museum: Purchased with funds from the Contemporary Collectors’ Circle with additional support from Vicki and Kent Logan, Catherine Dews Edwards and Philip Edwards, Craig Ponzio, and Ellen and Morris Susman, 2020.566.1-3. © Senga Nengudi.
“Warp Trance” (detail), 2007 by Senga Nengudi, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Multi-channel audio/video installation. Sound composition by Butch Morris. Photograph by Aaron Igler. Photo courtesy of the artist and The Fabric Workshop and Museum.
Portrait of Senga Nengudi, 2014. Photo © Ron Pollard, courtesy of Senga Nengudi.

Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said: “We are delighted to bring this beautiful exhibition to Philadelphia as it culminates a wonderful itinerary that included Germany, Brazil, and Denver. It presents us with a rare opportunity to explore the artist’s extraordinary development in its full depth and breadth, and by placing her achievements into such a rich context we can see clearly just how salient her art continues to be for us today.”

Amanda Sroka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art and organizer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition, said: “Marking the grand finale of this international traveling exhibition, the presentation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art stands as a celebration of Senga Nengudi’s place in the history of art and a testimony to the enduring relevance of her work in the present. Generous in spirit and radical in form, Nengudi’s artworks offer an invitation for connection—with ourselves, with one another, and with the world.”

The Organizing Curator is Stephanie Weber, Curator for Contemporary Art, Lenbachhaus Munich. In Philadelphia, the exhibition is curated by Amanda Sroka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, with support from Alexis Assam, Constance E. Clayton Fellow.

Images courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.