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Major (and complementary) shows at MIA, Walker

Two major art exhibitions opened late last week, and while they couldn’t be more different, they are also complementary. An observation shared with Minnesota Monthly’s editor Tim Gihring: “One hides everything; the other, nothing.”

cat sculpture
Photo by Rinaldo Capra
Catt (Fake Cattelan sculpture) by Eva and Franco Mattes, 2010,
Taxidermy cat and bird Polyurethane resin,cage, wood
Private collection, Houston. Courtesy of Inman Gallery, Houston.

With “More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness,” the Minneapolis Institute of Arts takes a giant step into the 21st century. Radically modern, this show has it all: breadth, depth, immediacy, surprise, humor, sadness, and wit. It’s profound, often disturbing, and about as smart as an art exhibit can be.

Curated by Elizabeth Armstrong, who’s only been here two years but is already shaking things up (she’s the one who’s salting the traditional galleries with modern pieces in a strategy called “remix”), “More Real?” starts with the premise that all art lies. It does, it always has, and we’re generally OK with that. But more and more, we’re preferring lies to truth in our everyday lives. We’d rather see Photoshopped models than actual human beings. We watch fake news. We try to convince ourselves we had legitimate reasons to go to war with Iraq 10 years ago because if we didn’t, what have we done?

Photographs, films, sculptures, drawings, a fake period room once non-occupied by a fictional MIA curator, an installation of ephemera about supposed plans for a Freudian amusement park based on dreams, artist Inigo Manlano-Ovalle’s deeply creepy “Phantom Truck” (a reconstruction of a nonexistent mobile chemical weapons laboratory), and a re-creation of the back of Rembrandt’s “Lucretia” (daringly paired with the real “Lucretia,” moved from its usual spot to the Target Gallery), challenge your perceptions and make your head spin. “More Real?” is a dangerous place for those with active dream lives, and anyone for whom the line between dreams and reality is frangible. See it, but don’t believe it. Through June 9. FMI and tickets.

At the Walker, Abraham Cruzvillegas’ “The Autoconstrucción Suites” couldn’t be more honest, more direct, or more moving, once you know a little about it. We had the good fortune to tour it with curator Clara Kim and the artist himself. The work stems from Cruzvillegas’ childhood in Ajusco, Mexico, where people build homes on volcanic rock from whatever materials they can find. Because of that experience, Cruzvillegas says, “There is nothing that I can call garbage. Nothing is dead. I find life everywhere. I believe that any object is alive, that we all share the same dignity as citizens, as beings.”

What looks at first like a room full of junk (for this exhibition, the interior walls of WAC’s Target and Friedman Galleries have been removed to create a vast, airy space) gradually reveals itself as a deeply personal, respectful, unsparingly political yet optimistic collection of sculptures and installations. Knives and machetes are stuck in a block, beams are perched on balls, walls are lined with painted-over bits of paper from the artist’s life. A mobile dangles shrunken heads made from dung. (“Even s*** has life,” Cruzvillegas proclaims.) Leaves wilt, roots sprout, a rubber bucket perches on a precarious tower of stones, a rock is crowned with feathers, cornmeal heaped in a corner dries and cracks, a garland of limes drapes from the ceiling. Speakers attached to a tricycle broadcast the sound of the artist whistling, something he does to keep himself company while he works. You’re invited to sit at a table and page through books that influenced him, and watch two films (side-by-side, running simultaneously) of his parents speaking (in Spanish, with subtitles). Inspiring and engaging, “The Autoconstrucción Suites” is the opposite of artifice. Perhaps all art doesn’t lie. Through Sept. 22. FMI

tricycle sculpture
MinnPost photo by John Whiting
“Tricycle,” by Abraham Cruzvillegas

After a no-nonsense meeting with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra management made a new play-and-talk proposal to its musicians last Friday. If accepted, the proposal would salvage the rest of the season. But first, said the musicians in a follow-up press release, there’s the issue of digital media use, which must be resolved by management and the AFM (American Federation of Musicians union). MinnPost spoke Monday with Lynn Erickson, co-chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee.

MinnPost: Do you feel you’re coming close to an agreement? 

Lynn Erickson: We’re a lot closer than we have been. There are still some things we need to settle. It would be nice if we could play and talk. 

MP: Carole Mason-Smith told the Strib that she felt the electronic media rights issue could be solved very quickly. Do you see that happening?

LE: I know that the AFM is working hard to get an agreement. Management has known for over a year that we [the musicians] can’t negotiate this and have waited until the 11th hour. If this play-and-talk is delayed, it’s because they didn’t take care of it earlier. 

MP: In the statement issued by the SPCO, Dobson West wrote, “We need to reach an agreement with both the local Union and the AFM by April 8 or we will be forced to cancel the rest of the season.” At the moment, concerts are scheduled through June, many for May. That’s a lot of cancellations. 

LE: Up to now, they’ve been canceling a little bit at a time. Call this a wild guess on my part, but this seems like a negotiating tactic to intimidate us or scare us into settling. If we don’t agree to play and talk, we’re not going to get paid until next fall. The lockout has been financially devastating. People have sold their houses. 

MP: More Minnesota Orchestra musicians have announced that they have accepted positions elsewhere. Has anyone from the SPCO made plans to leave?

LE: One musician [principal second violinist Kyu-Young Kim] has taken a section violin position in the New York Philharmonic. Others are auditioning. It’s just a matter of time before people start disappearing into other orchestras. 

Across the river at the Minnesota Orchestra, principal second violinist Gina DiBello has accepted a position with the Boston Symphony, and violist Kenneth Freed will move to Seattle with his wife, Gwendolyn Freed, who has a new job there. Violist Matthew Young has resigned from the Minnesota Orchestra after winning tenure for his position as violist with the San Francisco Symphony, which went on strike March 13. Out of the frying pan, into the fire?

Citing popular demand, Penumbra has added seven performances to “Spunk,” extending its run through Sunday, April 14. Adapted from “Three Tales” by Zora Neale Hurston, the play is both a celebration of Penumbra’s return and a terrific night at the theater, fast-paced, entertaining, poignant and funny. Artistic director Lou Bellamy calls it “a perfect example of Penumbra’s position as an authentic interpreter of African American cultural expression for the stage.” The cast – T. Mychael Rambo, Dennis Spears, Jevetta Steele, Austene Van, Keith Jamal Downing and Mikell Sap – is all-star and all-in, playing their roles with passion and conviction. Tickets here.

Park Square has announced its 2013-14 season. Can you say “premiere” six times, fast? For the first time in the theater’s 39-year history, its entire season is composed of area, regional or world premieres. Sept. 13-Oct. 6: David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” a dark comedy about the economic divide. Joel Sass will direct and create the scenic design; James Denton (“Desperate Housewives”) will make his Park Square debut. Oct. 18-Nov. 10: Tazewell Thompson’s new play “Mary T. & Lizzy K,” about the relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln (Linda Kelsey) and her mixed-race seamstress. Richard Cook will direct. Jan. 10, 2014-Feb. 2: “The School for Lies,” based on Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” and adapted by Tony winner David Ives. Amy Rummenie (Walking Shadow Theatre Company) will make her Park Square directorial debut. March 14-April 6: Michael Hollinger’s adaptation of “Cyrano” will star J.C. Cutler (star of last year’s “Red”); Joe Chvala (Flying Foot Forum) will direct. April 25-May 18: “Behind the Eye.” Local playwright Carson Kreitzer’s new play explores the life of Vogue-model-turned-WWII photographer Lee Miller. Leah Cooper will direct. May 30-July 13: “The Red Box.” Written by Minnesota native (and Edgar Award winner) Joseph Goodrich, commissioned by Park Square, this is the first stage play based on a Nero Wolfe mystery. Season tickets are on sale now; single tickets go on sale in late July.

For book lovers, “32 Books in 32 Days” is a de rigueur daily diversion from now until April 13. Each day leading up to the announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, this website highlights one of the 32 finalists. Entries include book excerpts, videos, audios, reviews, interviews and sometimes links to entire chapters. The site is counting backwards; use the search box to find entries earlier than those listed in Recent Posts.

Our picks through Thursday 

Tonight (Tuesday, March 26) at the St. Anthony Library: Minnesota author Erin Hart reads from and talks about her latest mystery, “The Book of Killowen,” inspired by the 2006 discovery of a 9th-century manuscript in a Tipperary crypt. 6:30 p.m., free. 2941 Pentagon Drive, Minneapolis.

Tonight at the Hopkins Center for the Arts: The Pines. Benson Ramsey, David Huckfelt, Alex Ramsey, JT Bates, James Buckley, Michael Rossetto, and Jacob Hanson are names well-known to Twin Cities music fans. As The Pines, they’ve gone national with albums including their latest, “Dark So Gold,” and its haunting, unforgettable opening track, “Cry, Cry Crow.” Atmospheric Americana indie-folk, rolk and blues. FMI and tickets

Wednesday at the Amsterdamthe Moth StorySLAM. This month’s theme: Detours. We’ve all made a few of those. Think of your most interesting detour, prepare a five-minute story, and show up. Doors at 7 p.m., stories at 7:30. FMITickets here or at the door.

soilwork photo
Courtesy of Fresno Media/Hannah Verbeuren
Swedish death metal, anyone?

Thursday at Station 4: Soilwork. Swedish death metal, anyone? Known for their aggressive sound and brutally melodic music, the six-member band is on its first North American headlining tour in nearly three years, just ahead of their ninth studio release, “The Living Infinite.” Metal isn’t for everyone, but neither is jazz or classical, klezmer or bluegrass. If you’re into it or curious, here’s a video. With Jeff Loomis, Blackguard, the Browning, and Wretched. 6 p.m., 16+. FMI and tickets.

Thursday at the Ted Mann: “Exhilaration: Dickinson and Yeats Songs.” Get in the mood for National Poetry Month. Mezzo-soprano (and U of M School of Music professor) Adriana Zabala and composer/pianist Gregg Kallor present Kallor’s settings of poems by Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats. They premiered them at Carnegie Hall in 2007 and recorded them in 2008. The program also features selections from Wolf’s “Italienisches Liederbuch,” Debussy settings of Paul Bourget, and a few Spanish surprises. 7:30 p.m., free. 2128 4th St. S., Minneapolis.

polyanna photo
Courtesy of Stephen Schroer
Bethany Simmons as Pollyanna

Opens Thursday at the Bryant Lake Bowl: “Pollyanna: The Story of the Best Little Girl Ever.” A new show based on the treacly novel by Eleanor H. Porter, which became the sticky-sweet movie starring Hayley Mills. Stephen Schroer of Hardcover Theater, adapter and director, swears this is “not the story you think it is.” Schroer further promises it will be “unironic.” Don’t expect zombie Pollyanna, but do expect to be entertained, given where this is playing and who’s behind it. Through April 13. FMI and tickets.

Thursday-Saturday at the Cowles: Shapiro & Smith Dance. For her company’s 25th anniversary season, Joanie Smith reinvents nursery rhymes and Shakespeare in two world premieres. “The Ophelias” re-imagines Hamlet’s tragic love interest with dancers Judith Howard, Laura Selle Virtucio, and Bessie Award-winner Erin Thompson and music including opera arias and new work by Scott Killian. In “Jack,” Nic Lincoln, Scott Metille, and Brian Sostek investigate the origins of nursery rhymes. Also on the program: “A Moment Before,” set to music by Rachmaninoff, and “Burning Air,” inspired by the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894 with score by Scott Killian. Shapiro & Smith won the 2012 Sage Award for Outstanding Performance. FMI and tickets.

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