Alec Soth: Songbook

Opens Friday: After three years roaming the United States with his camera in tow, Twin Cities photographer Alec Soth has returned with a “Songbook” of black-and-white photos of folks he encountered in the small towns and off-road terrain of America. They are, as usual in Sothland, goofy, earnest and often sad-sack strangers in a twisted landscape of wide horizons, cluttered bedrooms, empty ballrooms, vacant lots, bleak motels and scary woodlots. There they work, eat, pray, golf, nap and dance their way deeper and deeper into that desolate American freak show that Diane Arbus documented so memorably a half-century back. “Brian, Williston, ND” is shown here. Soth has packaged his “Songbook” photos as an exhibition and a book of the same title, punctuated with phrases from pop tunes of the past. His writer pal Brad Zellar accompanied him on many of the junkets, but Soth is by temperament a solo practitioner who aptly quotes a 1955 Sammy Cahn tune, “The songs I know, only the lonely know.” Soth promises to show up and glad-hand the opening-night crowd. He’ll also sign copies of the book (Mack, $60) at 7 p.m. March 12 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. (Feb. 20-April 4. Reception 6-8 p.m. Fri., free. Open noon-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Weinstein Gallery, 908 W. 46th St., Mpls. 612-822-1722, www.weinstein-gallery.com.)

Mary Abbe