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The Black List Project: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell

DATES November 21, 2008 through March 29, 2009
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
RELATED LINKS Main Exhibition Page
  • The Black List Project encompasses the photographs on view in this exhibition, a companion book, and a documentary film. The foundation for The Black List Project was laid in May 2005, when photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders suggested to public radio commentator and film critic Elvis Mitchell that they create a book on African American culture. Deriving its name from the 1950s Communist hunt led by the late U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy, the project plays on various connotations of the word black through the experiences of its notable list of subjects.

    This exhibition presents twenty-five large-format portraits taken by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. The sitters come from the worlds of politics, the arts, sports, religion, and business. The photographs were taken in the artist’s New York studio, as well as in rented studios in Los Angeles; a hotel conference room in Washington, D.C.; and a movie theater lobby outside of Philadelphia. The exhibition also includes monitors showing excerpts from The Black List: Volume One, an HBO 90-minute documentary film that features interviews with twenty-two influential and inspiring African Americans.
  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
    Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (American, born 1952), a photographer and filmmaker, is best known for his intimate portraits of world leaders and major cultural figures and his documentary about the musician Lou Reed, which won a Grammy Award in 1998. Greenfield-Sanders’s film and photography career started in the mid-1970s when he attended the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles and began photographing visiting dignitaries for the school, including Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, and Ingmar Bergman.

    In 1979, Greenfield-Sanders moved to New York City and began to photograph the art world. Twenty years later, he exhibited 700 portraits of artists, dealers, critics, collectors, and curators. Full sets of all 700 of these images are now in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. To date, fifteen books and catalogues have been published on Greenfield-Sanders’s portraiture.
  • Elvis Mitchell
    Elvis Mitchell (American, born 1958), host of the nationally syndicated public radio program The Treatment, is the entertainment critic for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. Mitchell has served as film critic for the New York Times; the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, at which he won the 1999 AASFE Award for criticism; the Detroit Free Press; LA Weekly; and California magazine. In 1993, Mitchell was nominated for a Writers Guild of America award for his contributions to the AFI Life Achievement Award tribute to Sidney Poitier.

    Mitchell is a visiting lecturer on African and African American studies and on visual and environmental studies at Harvard University. He hosted the Independent Focus interview program on the Independent Film Channel, was editor-at-large for Spin magazine, and has also written for Interview, Esquire, and the New York Times Magazine. He is currently editor-atlarge at Interview magazine.
  • July 4, 2008 Serena Williams, Chris Rock, Colin Powell, Toni Morrison, Russell Simmons, Al Sharpton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,  
    and  Sean Combs are among the many African Americans whose faces are seen and voices heard in The Black List Project: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell, a highly personal documentary that explores being Black in America. Twenty-five portraits by internationally renowned photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, along with excerpts from a series of filmed interviews directed by Greenfield-Sanders and conducted by noted film critic Elvis Mitchell, will be presented in an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum November  21, 2008 through March  29, 2009.

    The images, photographic and filmed, are the core of a collaboration between Greenfield-Sanders and Mitchell that has resulted in Blacklist: Volume 1, an HBO documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, aired nationally on HBO in August and is now being rebroadcast on Friday, November 21, at 5 p.m. EST; Sunday, November 23, at 10 a.m. EST; and on HBO 2 and HBO On Demand for two weeks, November 17 through December 1; a multi-city Museum exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and an accompanying book published by the Atria Books division of Simon & Schuster.
    The Brooklyn presentation is coordinated by Judy Kim, Curator of Exhibitions.

    Credit Suisse is presenting sponsor.

    The Village Voice is print media sponsor.

    In addition to the twenty-five large-scale portraits, including  a  stellar list of subjects from the worlds of politics, the arts, sports, religion, and business, there will be three flat screen monitors that will play selections from the HBO film on a continuous loop in the galleries. The entire film will be presented at the Museum at various times, to be announced, throughout the run of the exhibition.

    The project title derives its name from the 1950s Communist hunt led by the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, and plays on various connotations of the word black, through the experiences of the twenty-five subjects. Toni Morrison discusses her early interest in literature; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recalls an encounter with Miles Davis; Lou Gossett, Jr. describes his difficulties in finding good film roles even after he was awarded an Oscar; Studio Museum of Harlem director Thelma Golden reflects on being mistaken as her own assistant; and Chris Rock satirizes Hollywood’s idea of being African American.

    “Through these incomparable portraits  by one of  today’s most extraordinarily gifted photographers  and  the sensitive and probing interviews by one of   America’s  most important film critics, an intimate  and unique  view of what it is like to be Black in America today emerges. Their diverse voices reveal  issues  of society, family, and personal identity. We are  proud to present this exceptional exhibition,” comments Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman.

    The Black List Project offers a unique, candid, and insightful window onto the personal stories of some of the leading figures of our time,” commented Peter C. Marzio, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “As lead organizer of the museum exhibition, the MFAH was committed to not only presenting the full scope of the project to Houston audiences, but to ensuring that the project would travel nationally. We’re enormously pleased that the Brooklyn Museum will be the first of several planned stops around the U.S.”

    Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ photographs are in the permanent collections of major museums, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Brooklyn Museum. A contributing photographer to Vanity Fair, Greenfield-Sanders is also the producer and director of the Grammy award-winning 1997 film Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart.

    Elvis Mitchell has hosted The Treatment since 1996, a nationally syndicated radio program produced at National Public Radio affiliate KCRW in Los Angeles. He is also entertainment critic of NPR’s Weekend Edition. Previously he was film critic for The New York Times, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Detroit Free Press, and LA Weekly.

    Below is a complete list of photographs that will be included in the Brooklyn presentation:

    Bill T. Jones 2007
    Chris Rock 2007
    Colin Powell 2007
    Dawn Staley 2007
    Faye Wattleton 2007
    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 2007
    Keenen Ivory Wayans 2007
    Lorna Simpson 2007
    Louis Gossett, Jr. 2007
    Mahlon Duckett 2007
    Marc Morial 2007
    Reverend Al Sharpton 2007
    Richard D. Parsons 2007
    Russell Simmons 2007
    Sean Combs 2008
    Serena Williams 2008
    Slash 2007
    Steven Stoute 2007
    Susan Rice 2007
    Suzan-Lori Parks 2007
    Thelma Golden 2006
    Toni Morrison 2007
    Vernon Jordan 2007
    William Rice 2007
    Zane 2007

    A wide range of related public programs  is  planned in conjunction with the exhibition, with details to be announced.

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