Always deeply connected to the human body, Senga Nengudi’s work invokes ritual, narrative and connections between cultures disparate in geography and time. For her newest show, on view now at Sprüth Magers’s Los Angeles exhibition space on the Miracle Mile, the artist has erected a series of large-scale installation works, offering profound insights into her way of thinking and working.
Nengudi’s work takes an intricate and enigmatic take on the female body, twisting together a range of narrative elements and materials that create both concrete ties to notions of womanhood, while twisting them into abstract arrangements and sculptures. On view here, Sandmining B takes her concepts and extends them in space, an example of Nengudi’s expansive sand installations that have been a repeated motif in her work over the last twenty years. Emerging from an area of sand is a series of breast-like mounds topped with intensely saturated pigments, as well as scattered metal car parts that snake through and extend upward from the work’s lightly tinted field. Along a back wall, a tall piece of muffler is adorned with dozens of tightly knotted nylons in shades of black, brown and blue. The result is a scattered, ephemeral arrangement, one that avoids any single vantage point in favor of a distributed, atmospheric arrangement.
Another, room-sized installation, Bulemia (1988/2018) is also on view, with newspapers covering the interior walls to create a visual and textual field that parallels the sandy field of Sandmining B. In the upper half of the installation, entire spreads are visible, giving the full context of news, advertisements and printed miscellany. At the wall’s midpoint, the papers begin to fan out like a skirt gently resting on a foundational layer of tightly packed balls of newsprint, covered in gold spray paint. Other gold embellishments across Bulemia add a regal touch to the minutiae of daily life that viewers encounter throughout the sprawling work. Referencing a utopic vision of a state run by creative forces and Black statespeople, he work here twists a strange, hyperloaded textual field into a call for a reconsidered political reality.
Taken as a whole, Nengudi’s work in the show marks a striking engagement with race and gender, futures and pasts, all bound up in a series of new worlds.
The show closes December 18th.
– C. Rhinehart
Senga Nengudi at Sprüth Magers [Exhibition Site]