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Gallery Text: Supernova

SUPERNOVA: Charlotte and Gene’s Radical Imagination Station

The speed of light slows to a moment of reflection, recognition, and contemplation. Reexamine and reframe the past. Re-situate yourself in the present. Rehearse the future.

Supernova: Charlotte and Gene’s Radical Imagination Station is a multimedia sci-fi fantasy ode to the title characters—my parents—who taught me how to time travel.

The first space introduces our time traveling trio of siblings—Supernova, Mickey, and Bird—who use an ornately framed mirror from their childhood home as a vehicle for space exploration and time travel. Through the mirror, they travel back to the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s—back to their parents’ youth. As Supernova approaches the event horizon of his own birth, he fragments into subatomic particles and disappears into a rip in the space-time continuum, reemerging as cells in the gestation period.

In a short corridor connecting the first room of the exhibition to the second, the chronological present materializes as Fishing with Uncle Gene, an autobiographical children’s book that was written and illustrated by Supernova’s younger cousins over a decade ago. An updated digitally inked version is presented as a reflection of the original pen-and-paper story, which hangs directly across from its counterpart in the intimate space.

The second room of this exhibition explores family portraiture through a multiverse of Supernovas, Mickeys, and Birds at Supernova’s breakdance birthday party, when he turned eight years old. Abstracted design motifs from their family home decorate the space. The portraits are amalgamations of images and techniques of reproduction, remixing depictions of his parents and grandparents to create striking, mixed media variations of Supernova and his siblings, dressed as colorful mash-ups of their favorite culture references. Forty-three-year-old Supernova, his family and friends are celebrating his birthday virtually and cannot wait to show off their moves.

Put on your dancing shoes. You’re invited as well.

Special thanks to my MFA committee: Gail Simpson (chair), Faisal Abdu’Allah, Laurie Beth Clark, and Fred Stonehouse.

In loving memory, my creative inspiration for Supernova, Joshua Duncan McMahon (aka Spooks), April 15, 1991–July 19, 2019.

—Anwar Floyd-Pruitt


SUPERNOVA: Juror’s Statement

If the eyes are the window to the soul, what about the whole face? Anwar Floyd-Pruitt’s work is filled with them—faces, that is—pulled from family snaps, album covers, magazines, his own mirror. They congregate into a multilayered portrait of the artist and his family. In this exhibition we see him from every angle, especially from within, in the domain of his imagination. Here are his parents Charlotte and Gene, floating in space, “perfect little babies, embarking on the journey of their lives.” Here are a range of illustrations, by a talented cousin named True Green; they feel perfectly attuned to the artist’s own self-conception as a “Hip Hop Willy Wonka.” And here is the artist himself, a space cadet making his dream life real, once a child, now a man of explosive creativity—winner of the Russell and Paula Panczenko MFA Prize, offered to one outstanding MFA candidate of the UW–Madison art department annually. Here, in the galleries of the museum, he offers us his past, his memories, his impressions, his deft way around a drawing, his choreography of collage. Here is a no-longer-young artist making his debut. Here, above all, is a voice worth listening to.

—Glenn Adamson, 2020 Russell and Paula Panczenko MFA Prize Juror

Adamson is a senior scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. He was previously director of the Museum of Arts and Design, head of research at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and curator at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee.

The Chazen Museum of Art’s 50th anniversary year activities are supported by a grant from the UW-Madison Anonymous Fund, with additional support from the oce of the Chancellor. The Russell and Paula Panczenko MFA prize and exhibition are supported by the Russell and Paula Panczenko Fund for Excellence in the Visual Arts.