Time Out New York / Nov 20–26, 2008

Sam Lewitt

When a gallery statement begins by fashioning itself as a “species of promissory note,” the exhibition that trails it is unlikely to be a cakewalk, conceptually speaking. And so it goes with Sam Lewitt’s second solo outing at the consistently heady Miguel Abreu Gallery: a timely, if arid and self-conscious, meditation on the construction of economic value by verbal guarantee.

Lewitt is interested in the various ways that currencies (or “self-accrediting signs”) are underwritten by our faith in various modes of authority, a theme the artist explores in a collection of objects and images presented with hygienic precision. Commanding the main gallery is Art should be…etc., a pair of coins cast in “Antique Gold” (a cheap brass alloy) along with a digital print of the MGM logo sans lion. Together, they present a self-referential conundrum in which Latin inscriptions are framed as indicators of a worth that the works themselves may lack. In a downstairs room, Lewitt expands on this theme in drawings, portfolios and assemblages. Bookkeeper (p. 132) and Bookkeeper (p. 279) consist of archival storage boxes containing sheets of paper that look like pages torn from catalogs for antique-book sales. Each one details a particular tome, but in fact, they were all created by the artist. Displacing these coveted artifacts with pure information, Lewitt makes grimly clear—as if recent events on Wall Street hadn’t already—that promises are worth everything and nothing.

Image: View of "Sam Lewiit," 2009