SENGA NENGUDI : THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD

 Sprüth Magers Los Angeles  August 2020–January 2021

Senga Nengudi, BULEMIA 1988-2018

About us fabula narratur  Act 1

By Rosanna Albertini

Macaronic latin, the morning light brings it to me, no reason to dismiss it. The new camellias drop tears of rain from the pink tutu of petals still swollen with water. Affection and admiration seem to be hidden in these flowers. Beyond the thick greenery of the fence a bunch of preschool children chirp names of things maybe for the first time and slip them into the fantasy game. How can I read the news? I don’t know where I am, walking through the garden first thing in the morning. It seems the other side of the world. News of the last six months condensed into a rock at the center of my body. Place undetermined. What’s wrong? History switched, it’s a new day. Something continues to feel wrong.

 I have no more the desire to know everything from the political arena; it was at the tip of my mind until a few days ago. And now I am surrounded by the power of security operations: the functional castle of women and men of good will trying to remake the country healthy, prosperous and happy. I see the grapes like the fox of the fable, can’t reach them. But I won’t say they are not ripe. The fox in me is moved around by a tornado of voices, opinions, commentaries; such a dense cacophony that it becomes an enormous cocoon. Simple facts of every day end up obliterated.

 Furthermore, it’s hard not to see that, as we search for certainty in this life, we avoid the sense of dread, the surprise that feeds the beauty of being alive. As we look for protection, we deplete the bag of energies moving our feet toward the unknown, inside and after the vanishing cloud that we call life. 

We always drew, wrote and told stories from the beginning of human time to keep track of existence. They were often indirect, or suggesting a moral, parables or metaphors. Truth only sits inside a story, becomes tangible at the end of day, an inner sensation, mostly invisible. In this life of today we don’t wait. But, to know everything at once? Impossible, it doesn’t make sense. 

Senga Nengudi, BULEMIA 1988-2018
Senga Nengudi, BULEMIA 1988-2018

Opening the file with Senga Nengudi’s installation images l finally find a visual story that is also, maybe, the other side of the world. Her collection of newspapers and the one of her mother, without separation. People of color and white, news, advertisements and portraits of the Pope and of Martin Luther King. “Bridging the gap”, “End the taboo, proceed with care,” “just hold on,” “See more love,” “an inside job,” “Remain Unshaken.” Isolated words with no context. You enter a room with a tapestry of papers on the 4 walls: a big mouth chewing words and images, inevitably throwing up the excess of BULEMIA from reading too much, as Senga calls it. She covered some areas with gold, painted over some sheets to establish a new space for mind and heart to recover, a space of undeniable beauty. Repeated, made of cut outs in different fonts, the word CLEARANCE goes through the gold like a river. Toward the floor, papers become an unreadable mass, the one human bodies had contained, and then expelled according to the laws of gravity. Yet they remain suspended on the walls like the news in our mind, bending their head and shrinking like a flower that has lost its ink.  Small golden paper balls rest on a shelf, more are on the floor. Even discarded, they belong to the humans and shine, perhaps, of living particles.

“We are all part of the same tapestry. It’s important that we know as much as we can know, and be exposed as much as possible, and be motivated, inspired, and show interest in something that’s beyond our own personal history.” SENGA NENGUDI

Senga Nengudi, BULEMIA 1988-2018
Senga Nengudi, SANDMINING B

That’s the real landscape of this time in history, a dejected and wounded land. Pain springing from forgetfulness and lack of care vibrates in the dark vertical creature near the wall, a body of spines in tension between two metal pieces. Not able to stand up by herself, the creature witnesses the miracle staged by the artist in her hopeful mind: little sandbreasts emerging from the desert bed, exposing their colored, bright nipples in the air. 

It’s a disconcerting, attractive scene sowing colors and industrial metals on the ground. They are hardly compatible. 

It’s a prayer asking for husbandry: “not a simple list of practices, but an attitude toward living that entails honesty and economy” (William Bryant Logan).

It’s a concert for crystallized physical evidence in the sand  and the heartbeat of the artist, and ours if we close our eyes and listen to her voice 

My ancestors I honor you,

I remember you I we need you

I we thank you for your guidance…

It is time. It is time… to chant the same song 

Hum the same melody of Now…

Heart to heart, our blood still flows from your origin 

Toes touching soil, muddied

1619, from human being to a commodity,

Soul of a nation, lost in an instant

Only love, still, only love can make it right

Only love can save the day  

Colors on the wall around the vertical creature and on parts of the sand are light, almost vanishing shades of pink, green and blue. They might announce the beginning of a new day, or the end of any day.

Senga Nengudi does not spread illusions, nor tries to seduce bringing up mirrors of eternal utopias.

She is just here, as we all are, turning pain and dread into gold.

A camellia to her from my grateful, quivering fingers.