In one of Anne Hardy’s large color photos at Bellwether, a cramped firing range is illuminated by a suspended fluorescent light, the walls and sloppily extruding foam insulation all painted black; another shot features a small greenhouse filled with drooping plants, the ceiling made from plastic sheeting held in place with black-and-yellow caution tape. The London-based Hardy constructs these bedraggled sets in her studio, carefully positioning objects to heighten content and bolster her strong compositions. Cabin (2008) features partitions of sound-dampening foam rubber, the zigzagging gray lines contrasting with cigarette butts, colorful detritus, and deflated black balloons scattered on the floor like the remains of some rock band’s celebration (or tantrum). In a windowless DIY gym, unframed mirrors reflect the rough-hewn walls and ceiling; hanging ropes draw parabolas in the air that join cheesy body-building trophies to a clock and a pair of spread bird’s wings. While the lighting and camera angles are rigidly controlled, order is elusive in these environments—taxonomies seem to degrade even as they’re conceived. There are no people to be seen, although stairways leading upward can be glimpsed in a few of the works, as if these chambers were located at the bottom of the line. Hardy’s enigmatic narratives are filled with lovely imagery, but they’re claustrophobic and musty, like dreams trapped in subterranean bunkers.
This is painting for those who like a bit of surrealist whimsy with their gritty, gloppy abstraction. Chemical Reaction (2008) joins what might be a polluted pink sunset with garish striations of thickly brushed pigment, creating an alluring, if corroded, mindscape. The five-and-a-half-foot-tall NeverEnough is fractured by contrasting stripes of color, which surround a flat-black rectangle like awnings; a riot of clashing strokes forms an unsteady base Van Gogh once wrote that a “refuse dump is a splendid thing,” and Sall’s collisions of heavy texture, bold shape, and loud color achieve the unexpected beauty of a garbage heap just before the mind registers what the eye is transmitting. ATM Gallery, 619B W 27th, 212-375-0349. Through May 10.
If a photorealist painter worked from blurry snapshots—atmospheric, and absent the detail that photos effortlessly impart—you might get these gorgeous cityscapes. In 2008’s Rue du Roi de Sicile, Paris, Aronson dragged a broad brush in vertical strokes, then added several horizontal swipes to viscerally convey a sun-washed building; bright daubs of red work both as stoplights and as compositional barbs. Walls meld into sky; cars gleam darkly within shadowy urban geometries; triangular slabs of gray bisected by a vermilion slash coalesce into a businessman hitting on a leggy blonde in an old boys’ bar. This is the real deal: the rich physicality of oil paint married to the mutable physics of perception. Tibor de Nagy, 724 Fifth Ave, 212-262-5050. Through May 17.
The title View From Corner of Chicken House will give you some idea of the pastoral yet matter-of-fact content of these small oil paintings by Dodd (b. 1927). In that 1983 work, a shadowed quilt with a rusty red-and-gray checkerboard pattern hangs on a clothesline abutting a sunny yellow clapboard wall. Painted in concise, vibrant strokes, Dodd’s plein air panels are filled with stirring light, which turns a shingled wall into a cascade of blue trapezoids or drying linens into bright diamonds. The colors are carefully tuned, such as a mauve outbuilding contrasting with yellow curtains, and structures are stripped to essential geometric forms, while fauna is reduced to spare details—diagonal branches or an arcing mass of leaves—giving these unsentimental scenes a powerful abstract jolt. Alexandre, 41 E 57th, 212-755-2828. Through May 29.
The newest “Thesaurus” canvases continue Bochner’s decades-long fusion of conceptualism, abstraction, and old-school painting. Related words have been brushed wet-into-wet across the roughly seven-by-five-foot grounds like calligraphic drawings. The mind can laugh at the progressions in a piece such as Obsolete (2007), which offers dozens of synonyms ranging from “Gone To Seed” to “Retro,” before concluding with “Shit Canned.” Meanwhile, the eye can enjoy the mercurial grays resulting from rubbed-out and rewritten words, an energized synthesis of figure/ground that bests the dour flabbiness in such antecedents as Cy Twombly’s “Blackboard” paintings. Peter Freeman, 560 Broadway, 212-966-5154. Through May 24.
Marvin E. Newman: ‘The Color Series’
Allying a photojournalist’s eye for narrative detail with painterly composition, Newman (b. 1927) here documents the underbelly of the American Century. A 1950s series of businessmen trudging through deep Wall Street shadows presages Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s dramatic street scenes by decades. Photos from the ’70s of a Nevada brothel capture comely gals in gossamer nighties and massive do’s lounging in wood-paneled lairs adorned with psychedelic posters and lava lamps. A 1983 shot frames a Rolls-Royce filled with laughing swells trapped in Times Square traffic under a pre-Disneyfied marquee advertising Make Them Die Slowly. Ah, the Reagan years. Silverstein, 535 W 24th, 212-627-3930. Through May 24.