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

Colin Powell, Chris Rock, Al Sharpton and Serena Williams. What do they have in common? Just this: They are black in America. Oh, and they’re included in “The Black List Project: Timothy Greenfield--Sanders and Elvis Mitchell.”

Greenfield-Sanders, considered one of the best portrait photographers of our time, joined forces with Mitchell, entertainment critic for NPR’s Weekend Edition, to photograph and interview 22 prominent African Americans regarding defining moments in their lives. (Three more were added for the Houston stop of the show.) The collection of photographs gives a new face to the black experience in America. Straight-ahead in style, the portraits are both stoic and moving, challenging and refreshing.

Toni Morrison, winner of both the Nobel Prize for Literature and a Pulitzer, is shown as the elegant grande dame of literature that she is. Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, another Pulitzer Prize winner (hers is for drama) and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, is one of the few subjects captured with a smile on her face. Choreographer and “Genius” grant recipient Bill T. Jones’s portrait is among the most striking (in a field crowded with captivating images). He has a solemn look on his face, his shoulders and torso are bare, and his hair is close-shaven. The effect is intense; we are seeing him stripped down, physically and emotionally.

The filmed interviews became The Black List: Volume One (borrowing the title from the infamous 1950s-era dossier of suspected Communists). Looped clips from the film accompany the art exhibit, and the MFAH will hold several screenings of the film in its entirety in September. See “The Black List Project” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit www.mfah.org. $3.50 to $7.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Aug. 3. Continues through Oct. 26, 2008

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Olivia Flores Alvarez