Senga Nengudi

decade

1940s

1943

Senga Nengudi is born Sue Irons in Chicago.

decade

1950s

1951

Senga Nengudi’s family moves to California in search of a better life.

decade

1960s

1960s 1965

While at CalState, Senga Nengudi works as an assistant teacher at the Pasadena Art Museum.

1960s 1965

Senga Nengudi teaches classes at the Watts Towers Arts Center.

1966

Senga Nengudi earns her BA from California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA).

1966

In between degrees Senga Nengudi studies for one year at Waseda University in Tokyo, inspired by the Gutai artists.

1968–70 1968

David Hammons, Senga Nengudi, and John Outterbridge, along with other artists, gather at Suzanne Jackson’s Gallery 32 to eat and talk.

1968

Senga Nengudi talks about the need for marginalized artists to come together to construct their own world as jazz musicians had.

Video Transcript

Since we weren’t accepted by, particularly, the mainstream art world, we had to create our own world and be very supportive of our own processes and concepts. And so we just kind of developed this friendship-family situation because we shared similar ideas. And part of that came out of our interest with Sun Ra, the musician, who actually is from Chicago. And his idea of total theater, I guess you might say—music, dance— he would have videos in his presentations.

decade

1970s

1970

Gallery 32 hosts Sapphire Show: You’ve come a long way, baby, an exhibition of work by six black women artists including Suzanne Jackson and Senga Nengudi. It is the first survey of black women artists in Los Angeles.

1971

Senga Nengudi receives her MA in sculpture from Cal State LA.

early 1970s 1971

Senga Nengudi teaches classes at the Watts Towers Arts Center.

1973

David Hammons stays with Senga Nengudi in her New York apartment while attending the National Conference of Artists.

1970s 1973

David Hammons shares his studio, a former dancehall on Slauson Avenue, with Senga Nengudi.

1970s–80s 1975

David Hammons and Senga Nengudi are part of a loose group of artists called Studio Z that would improvise actions at Hammons’s Slauson Avenue studio or outside in public space.

1976

Senga Nengudi, R.S.V.P. Fall 1976 (detail), 1976/2017. Nylon mesh, sand, and pins; 41 × 19 ½ x 2 ½ in. (104.1 × 49.5 × 6.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Irving Stenn, Bernard I. Lumpkin and Carmine D. Boccuzzi, and Jackson Tang in honor of Naomi Beckwith, 2017.17. © Senga Nengudi. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein, courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.
Senga Nengudi, R.S.V.P. Fall 1976 (detail), 1976/2017. Nylon mesh, sand, and pins; 41 × 19 ½ x 2 ½ in. (104.1 × 49.5 × 6.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Irving Stenn, Bernard I. Lumpkin and Carmine D. Boccuzzi, and Jackson Tang in honor of Naomi Beckwith, 2017.17. © Senga Nengudi. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein, courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.
Senga Nengudi, R.S.V.P. Fall 1976, 1976/2017. Nylon mesh, sand, and pins; 41 × 19 ½ x 2 ½ in. (104.1 × 49.5 × 6.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Irving Stenn, Bernard I. Lumpkin and Carmine D. Boccuzzi, and Jackson Tang in honor of Naomi Beckwith, 2017.17. © Senga Nengudi. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein, courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.

1977

Senga Nengudi, Swing Low, 1977/2014. Nylon mesh and sand; 30 × 60 × 5 in. (76.2 × 152.4 × 12.7 cm). Collection of Kerry James Marshall and Cheryl Lynn Bruce. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.

1977

David Hammons, Senga Nengudi, and other members of Studio Z participate in Studio Z: Individual Collective, an exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

1978

Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick ‘Quaku’ Young.
Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick “Quaku” Young.

1978

Senga Nengudi organizes the performance Ceremony for Freeway Fets underneath a freeway overpass on Pico Boulevard near the Los Angeles Convention Center. The performance is supported by a Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) grant and sponsored by Brockman Gallery Productions and the California Department of Transportation. As a part of Studio Z, David Hammons participates.

1978

Senga Nengudi explains the origins of her 1978 performance Ceremony for Freeway Fets.

Video Transcript

In the late 1970s, there was a program that was put into place by the federal government, which was to employ unemployed artists. And in California, in Los Angeles, the liaison agency was Brockman Gallery. And Brockman Gallery was one of the few black galleries in Los Angeles. And although it was a black gallery, there were maybe about, let’s say 10 artists in the program, and it was a very diverse set of artists. And so each one of us was given the task to create a public artwork in a public space. And so I chose under the freeway on Pico Boulevard, and that’s just very close to the Los Angeles Convention Center. And the reason I chose that was because that area itself was very diverse. The first peoples, Native Americans were there. Many of them had lived on the res, and as they were incorporating themselves into the community, that was where they would go. There was a lot of support there. Latinos, Asian-Americans, as well as immigrants from Vietnam. It was just really quite rich. And so I really wanted to have that be the place that I would have it, and it was very—I don’t know, in a sense, even though it was cement, the ground was dirt, and now I went back to that space, and it’s all cemented over. But at that point, it reminded me of Africa. It had little, tiny palm trees, and it was a lot of dirt, and it had the columns, which were very powerful. And there were—there was the energy of humans there. Because of the way this area was structured, there was like a shelf between the freeway itself and just underneath the freeway. And so a lot of homeless people would live there because they were protected, and it was very—almost ancient way of survival.

You know, where I’m from now, there were cliff dwellings, Native American cliff dwellings, because when you’re up above stuff, you’re protected from what’s going on. So it’s a very safe place in a sense, and they were there, you know, at night, and there were little fire—remnants of fires where they kept themselves warm. So there was an energy already infused in that particular area. And so that’s where I chose to have it. And I called upon my brothers and sisters and told them that I wanted to do this piece under the freeway because it was actually a public art piece. But the Freeway Fets was a ceremony. It was an opening up; it was a christening of the piece that I did in that area.

decade

1980s

1982

Senga Nengudi is included in the group exhibition Men at the Watts Towers Art Center.

decade

1990s

1995

Senga Nengudi and John Outterbridge are included in the Watts Towers Art Center's 25th anniversary exhibition, Homecoming.

decade

2000s

2007

Judy Chicago, Mary Kelly, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Senga Nengudi, Miriam Schapiro, and June Wayne are included in the traveling exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

decade

2010s

2011

Joe Goode, Stephen Kaltenbach, Mike Kelley, Tom Marioni, Bruce Nauman, Senga Nengudi, Allen Ruppersberg, and Ed Ruscha are included in the group exhibition Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974–1981 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

2018

The University of Southern California Fischer Museum of Art hosts the traveling exhibition Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures.

Senga Nengudi, Ceremony for Freeway Fets, 1978. Chromogenic development print; series of 11, each: 12 × 18 in. Edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. © Senga Nengudi. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Roderick “Quaku” Young.

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