New York

Judith Streeter

Stephen Haller Gallery

The surfaces of Judith Streeter’s paintings resemble weather-beaten, painted-wood exteriors (tattered billboards, abandoned barns), evoking at once rural poverty and the rich tones of desert earth and sky. Against the paradoxically fecund emptiness, she often places a cross to suggest a sort of balance or stasis. In style and tone, these beautifully finished and subdued pieces owe something to the work of Anselm Kiefer, keenly aware not only of the weight of the history of painting but of history itself. Their heavily reworked surfaces and those passages in which the underlying wood panel has actually been gouged out speak to an attempt to wrestle with the problem of sustaining faith in the validity of painting, but also to the difficulty of inhabiting an increasingly secular and chaotic world.

As objects, Streeter’s works are sure to please those for whom the current fascination with distressed surfaces and timeworn finishes is the last word in interior decor. But her paintings are more than pretty; in fact, in their struggle against prettiness they acknowledge the spiritual and material emptiness of our own prefab world. By returning to the vast, empty Southwestern landscape and to the most overdetermined of icons—the cross—Streeter presents a vision that seems particularly of this moment.

Justin Spring