Senga Nengudi (b. 1943) R.S.V.P. V, 1976 Nylon, mesh, and sand 48 × 36 × 2 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase with funds provided by the Acquisition Committee 2003.10.22
Through sculptures composed of flesh-toned pantyhose, Senga Nengudi taps into the symbolic potential of fiber materials. Since the 1970s, Nengudi has produced works, such as R.S.V.P. V, using brown pantyhose. In stretching the tights into elongated linear forms, she gestures toward the movement and resistance of Black women as they navigate society’s historical gender roles. The work is part of her R.S.V.P. series of sculptures and performances, whose title is an abbreviation of the French phrase répondez s'il vous plaît (meaning “please respond”), alluding to performances during which dancers enter and lean into the sculptures. In both action and stillness, Nengudi’s works demonstrate the tensile resilience of the material and, symbolically, of Black women.