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Photographer Alec Soth is back; Anoushka Shankar to perform at the O’Shaughnessy

ALSO: Talk of the Stacks with Adam Makos; Benny Green and Veronica Swift at the Dakota; and more.

In November, walking through “100 Years and Counting,” the look-at-us, we’re-back show at the Minnesota Museum of American Art’s new space in the Pioneer Endicott, we saw a familiar face: “Brian, Williston, ND,” Alec Soth’s portrait of an oil field worker. And we thought – Alec Soth! Where have you been? We haven’t heard a word about you in ages. Same when we saw Soth’s “Prom #1: Cleveland, Ohio” on the wall at the Walker in its new exhibition “Five Ways In.”

Then this, last week in the New York Times: “A Year of Quiet Contemplation Led to the Rebirth of Alec Soth’s Photography.”

Alec Soth, "Keni, New Orleans," 2018
Courtesy of the Weinstein Hammons Gallery
Alec Soth, "Keni, New Orleans," 2018
As the article says, Soth took a break. He meditated and pursued “an entirely different and private kind of art making.” He was happy. (It’s interesting that his final assignment before going on hiatus was taking photos for a story about a laughter yoga workshop in India.) Alarmingly, per the Times, “He thought his photography career might be over.” Then, “after a year of quiet contemplation, Mr. Soth decided to return to the life he knew. This time, he resolved to figure out how to photograph people in a way that felt right.”

We’ll see what that meant and how it played out next Friday, March 15, when Weinstein Hammons Gallery will hold an opening reception for “Alec Soth: I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating.” This exhibition of new large-format photographs will be the Minneapolis-born and based photographer’s fifth solo show with the gallery.

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Taken over the course of a year in cities across the globe – indoors, in people’s homes – the images depict domestic intimacy rather than geography or nationality. The title is a line in Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Gray Room.” Here’s the whole (short) poem, if you’d like to read it. The poem could easily be a description of an Alec Soth photograph. From the Weinstein Hammons: “Soth expresses poetic mysteries unleashed from the quiet encounter in a stranger’s room beholding the fragile enigmatic beauty of another person’s life.”

“I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating” will run in three cities at the same time, with ours opening first. The New York show will open March 21 and San Francisco on March 23. Note that the Weinstein Hammon is a small, street-level space in southwest Minneapolis. It’s likely to be a squeeze on opening night. 6-8 p.m. Free.

The picks

Tonight (Friday, Mar. 8) at the O’Shaughnessy: Toshi Reagon: “I Have Seen the Good Worlds.” Especially if you have plans to see “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower – The Concert Version” when it comes to the O’Shaughnessy on April 26 (one performance only!), catch this free talk by Toshi Reagon, who created the new opera with her mother, Sweet Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagon. Her lecture is described as “notes on Octavia E. Butler’s ‘Parable of the Sower’ and the Art of Prediction as Activation.” 7 p.m. Free, but tickets are required. P.S. Today is International Women’s Day.

Toshi Reagon
Photo by Erica Blackman
Toshi Reagon, above, created the new opera with her mother, Sweet Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Sunday at Hamline’s Sundin Hall: “Music of Desolation.” You may think you need bright, bubbly, poppy tunes to make winter’s woes go away. But what if what you really need is music that’s bluer than you? Yet somehow lifts you up and over the drifts and the ice dams because it’s so darned beautiful? On Sunday, violinists Young-Nam Kim and Leslie Shank, violists Sally Chisholm and Tom Turner, cellists Silver Ainomäe and Jane Cords-O’Hara, pianist Timothy Lovelace and mezzo soprano Adriana Zabala will test this theory in a program that includes music by Respighi, Ervin Schulhoff and Paul Schoenfield and the premiere of John Harbison’s Viola Sonata. 4 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/20; students free with ID).

Monday at 900 Hennepin: “Trailblazing Women: In the Spirit of Harriet Tubman.” Performance artist Hester Moore, channeling Tubman, will share songs and stories of slavery, struggle, freedom and hope at this one-night, all-ages fundraiser for the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery. The night of performances also features J.D. Steele and the MacPhail Community Youth choir, vocalist Annie Mack and the WE WIN Institute Drummers. Reception with performers at 5 p.m., performances at 6:30. Suggested donation $15. FMI and RSVP. 900 Hennepin is Hennepin Theatre Trust’s event center next door to the Orpheum; most recently, it was home to Solera.

Veronica Swift
Photo by Bill Westmoreland
Veronica Swift
Monday at the Dakota: Benny Green and Veronica Swift. The pairing of an iconic jazz pianist with an up-and-coming jazz vocalist is not always the world’s best idea. This may be the rare exception. We’ve heard the tracks Green and Swift recorded together for Green’s new album, “Then and Now” (his 20th as leader) and know that Green thinks highly of Swift, since this is the first time he has ever recorded with a singer. (He told the Marin Times that Swift is “the greatest straight-ahead jazz talent I’ve seen emerge this century.”) Swift, 24, has the right genes; she’s the daughter of bebop pianist Hod O’Brien and jazz vocalist Stephanie Nakasian. In 2015, she won second place at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. And she first performed with Jazz at Lincoln Center at age 11. 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20-40).

Tuesday at Minneapolis Central Library: Talk of the Stacks with Adam Makos. In March 1945, Clarence Smoyer was a young gunner with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored division, fighting to capture the German city of Cologne. More than 70 years later, he’s tormented by the thought that his shot led to the death of a young German woman – a scene caught on film by an Army photographer. Historian and New York Times best-selling author Adam Makos tells the story in his latest nonfiction book, “Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II.” Here’s a CBS Sunday Morning feature you’ll want to watch before you go. Doors at 6:15 p.m, program at 7. Sales and signing to follow. Free.

Anoushka Shankar
Photo by Anushka Menon
Six-time Grammy nominee Anoushka Shankar has been playing sitar all her life.
Tuesday at the O’Shaughnessy: Anoushka Shankar. Master of the sitar in many settings – classical, pop, progressive, Latin, chill – Shankar is touring with her new album, “Reflections,” which cherry-picks tracks from her 20-year career. Tuesday’s concert will be an ideal introduction if you don’t already know her and a satisfying refresher if you do. Six-time Grammy nominee Shankar has been playing sitar all her life; she learned from her father, the late Ravi Shankar, who shot to fame in the ’60s when he taught George Harrison how to play. Oh, and her half-sister is Norah Jones. Shankar will share the stage with Ojas Adhiya (tabla), Pirashanna Theyarajah (mridangam), Ravichandra Kulur (flute), Danny Keane (cello, piano) and Kenji Ota (tanpura). 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($21-45).