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MIA starts celebratory year with ‘American Modernism’; ‘Hothouse’ run extended

Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York
George Tooker, “The Entertainers,” 1959, part of MIA’s “American Modernism” show.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts opened its doors on New Year’s Day, the first day of its 100th Birthday Year, and people came. Lots of people. Many were there to see “Italian Style,” the smashing fashion show that closed Sunday. And many beelined for the first big surprise of 52 the MIA plans for 2015: the opening of “American Modernism: Selections from the Kunin Collection.”

For now, the 550 works from the personal collection of the late Myron Kunin, founder of the Regis Corporation and MIA board member for 35 years, are on loan, and about 80 are on display. Fingers are crossed that the collection, valued at $300 million, will one day be a gift. It’s a trove of American modernism, something the MIA needs more of.

On New Year’s Day, we stood before Walt Kuhn’s mighty “Wrestler” (1946), Pavel Tchelitchew’s heavily tattooed “Acrobat in Red Velvet” (1930), four radically different works by Marsden Hartley including “Prayer on Park Avenue” (1941), Romare Bearden’s powerful “Folk Musicians” (1941–2), Morris Kantor’s terrifying “Untitled, Posthumous Portrait of the Artist’s Mother” (1922; major mother issues there), Andrew Wyeth’s tender “Christina Olson” (1947), Paul Cadmus’s bustling “Aspects of Suburban Life: Main Street” (1937), Georgia O’Keeffe’s surprising “Chestnut Tree – Grey” (1924) and Philip Guston’s “Halloween Party” (1942), a painting Maurice Sendak surely must have seen before illustrating “Where the Wild Things Are.” Through Dec. 15, 2015.

As we left the museum, several handsome men in tuxedoes were arriving: members of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, who were scheduled to sing. It was an altogether fine way to start the year. Should museums be open on New Year’s Day? What do you think? If they were, would you go?

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Dark & Stormy’s production of Harold Pinter’s “The Hothouse” is so hot its run at the Grain Belt Bottling House has been extended. But you only have three more chances to see a play so deliciously bleak, perfectly acted and fearlessly staged that we who write about such things are running low on superlatives to describe it. Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 8-10, 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/$15).

Following its own sold-out, Ivey-winning run last August, “Rose” is returning. Starring Sally Wingert as an elderly Jewish woman sitting shiva for a murdered girl, Martin Sherman’s play weaves 80 years of memories into a portrait of Jewish identity. The Minnesota Jewish Theatre’s production originally played to limited audiences in private homes. Three Twin Cities performances were added – at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park and Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul – and we just learned that all of those have sold out as well. Call 651-647-4315 to be added to the wait list. Tickets are $45.

It’s official: The maestro and the concertmaster are engaged. Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä and Concertmaster Erin Keefe shared the news on Facebook over the holidays. With the orchestra’s willingness to party – think the opening gala last September, and the “Sparkling Gershwin” performances on New Year’s Eve – might we expect a celebratory wedding concert?

Several Minnesota arts organizations have received grants from the Jerome Foundation that will help fund new work by many emerging artists. Jerome is a major supporter of the arts in Minnesota and New York City. The big winners are Northern Lights.MN, which receives a two-year grant of $130,000 for Art(ists) on the Verge; the Loft Literary Center, a two-year grant of $122,000 for its Mentor Series; and Forecast Public Art, $70,900 for its Artist Services Program. Other grantees are In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, The Playwrights’ Center (as fiscal sponsor for Workhaus Playwrights Collective), VocalEssence, Pangea World Theater (as fiscal sponsor for Aniccha Arts), James Sewell Ballet and Northern Clay Center.

The picks

Today through Thursday at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul: Butterflies. Thursday is closing day for “Flight of the Butterflies,” the giant-screen film about the monarch migration, and the Live Butterfly House. The perfect antidotes to this week’s deep freeze. The museum is open late Thursday night. Tickets here or call 651-221-9444 during business hours.

Tonight at the St. Paul JCC: Author Thomas Beller talks about his book “J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist.” Why are we so fascinated by the reclusive, elusive, and not at all prolific author of “The Catcher in the Rye”? Beller will shed light on that, since he’s obsessed with Salinger himself. 7:30 p.m. Call 651-698-0751 to register. $6 at the door. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

Tomorrow at SubText Books in St. Paul: Poet Michael Bazzett reads from his collection “You Must Remember This.” Published by Milkweed, it won the 2014 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry. Bazzett is a Carleton graduate and a teacher at the Blake School. 7 p.m. Free.

The weekend

Friday through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis: 6th Annual Minneapolis Tattoo Convention. You know you want a world map outline on your arm, an arrow on your back, Roman numerals on your chest, a glyph on your finger or a hummingbird on your shoulder. (These were among the “19 Tattoos That Literally Everyone Got In 2014,” per that most reliable of sources, Buzzfeed.) Whatever your pleasure, this is the place to be, with some 300 tattoo artists from around the world, tattoo contests, seminars, entertainment, and lots of heavily tattooed people. Jim Walsh went last year and turned in a colorful report. FMI. Tickets ($20/day, $40/three-day pass) at the show.

Saturday at Icehouse in Minneapolis: Adam Levy. Since the suicide of his son Daniel three years ago, singer/songwriter and Honeydogs frontman Levy has found a new purpose in his life: speaking, singing and writing songs about mental illness, suicide, its aftermath and his own grief. With his band of old and new friends, he’ll perform most of his upcoming solo record. With Reina Del Cid. Doors at 10 p.m., music at 10:30. 21+. $10 at the door.

Save the date

Sunday, Feb. 15, at Macalester College in St. Paul: Scott McCloud presents his new book, “The Sculptor.” Anyone who loves comic books and graphic novels knows who McCloud is. He wrote the book on how comics work; it’s called “Understanding Comics,” and once you read it, you’ll never see comics the same way again. (So says the owner of a dog-eared, coffee-stained copy.) With “The Sculptor,” a graphic novel, he ventures into fiction. To those who might still think of graphic novels as “not real books” or otherwise inferior, this: Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize. And this: Roz Chast’s memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is a #1 New York Times bestseller and was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award. McCloud will be at the John B. Davis Lecture Hall (in the Ruth Stricker Campus Center, at the SW corner of Grand and Snelling) at 4 p.m. Free. FMI.

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