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Kerry James Marshall & Senga Nengudi

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Kerry James Marshall
B. 1955, Birmingham, Alabama. Lives and works in Chicago.

From Ian Alteveer, Aaron I. Fleischman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

One of the great pleasures of working on the 2016 exhibition “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” was visiting the artist’s Chicago studio with my co-curators Helen Molesworth and Dieter Roelstraete. One of these frequent trips entailed a ride down to Bronzeville in the autumn of 2014 to view the paintings that Marshall was finishing for his forthcoming exhibition with David Zwirner in London. Entering his workspace that day, the three of us gasped upon seeing his Untitled (Studio) (2014). It was near completion and resplendent on a large easel against the far wall. We noted immediately how vitally important this work was to the artist’s practice as a whole: both to his reverence for and revision of Old Master paintings, and to his desire to depict the lives of people of color (subjects all too rarely seen on museum walls).
The painting also reminded me of an episode Marshall often recounts. After seventh grade, he was taking a summer course at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, and he visited the studio of his childhood idol, Charles White. It was the first time Marshall had seen an artist’s workspace in person—it was full of unfinished works, paint, and charcoal, as well as endless creative possibilities. He credits that moment as the time he first envisioned himself becoming an artist. Untitled (Studio) is, in part, about that discovery of a black artist’s atelier: a distinguished place of labor where an allegorical catalogue of the many modes of artmaking are on display. The painting is not only a majestic ode to the occupation of the artist, but also a paean to the history and endless potential of the medium.
Senga Nengudi
B. 1943, Chicago. Lives and works in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

From Koyo Kouoh, Founding Artistic Director, RAW Material Company:

Senga Nengudi’s practice has been pivotal in expanding the lexicon of Conceptual art, giving new forms to feminist thought, and navigating ways for African American artists to reclaim their blackness. Her work, emerging in Los Angeles in the 1970s, has often employed materials imbued with geopolitical charge. Throughout her practice, Nengudi reconsiders the social and economic structures that create them.
To make her sculpture R.S.V.P. XI (1977/2004), for example, Nengudi used mass-produced materials: nylons, a tire inner tube, and sand. Their shapes suggest human organs, while their hues connote racial tones. Beyond the work’s formal complexity and pioneering Postminimalist aesthetic, Nengudi chose materials related to violent histories. R.S.V.P. XI unites the global reach of these materials with the forms of denatured human bodies. The work connects gendered and racialized bodies with common consumer goods. For the “R.S.V.P.” series and many other pieces, Nengudi collaborated with dancer Maren Hassinger, who used performance to activate the work.
Nengudi is also a committed educator: She frequently takes her pieces outside the gallery setting, using sculpture and movement to give overlooked environments a new symbolic force. Nengudi is a pioneer of her generation, and recent reiterations of her works underscore the continued relevance and importance of her practice.

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