Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Visual Arts 2018

Sam Lewitt

A portrait of Sam Lewitt in front of a a work table with arms crossed, wearing a black graphic T-shirt.
Photo by Richard Gilligan.
  • 2018 Grants to Artists
  • Visual Arts
  • Artist
  • Born 1981, Los Angeles, CA
  • Lives in New York, NY

I cannot stress enough how absolutely invaluable this grant was as a kind of deus ex machina, a last minute anchor drop that enabled me to get to work... My gratitude for this grant – that a vehicle exists for artists to support one another in this way, at this level – simply cannot be overstated.

- Sam Lewitt, December 17, 2018

Artist Statement

I've always had a very slight stutter. I think this trouble with language has informed my interest in loosening certain taught processes of communication. The tendency to stammer throws seemingly natural habits of exchange into thick relief. This has led me to focus on power relations that circulate in the form of so-called “real abstractions:" abstractions that don't simply express, but effectively organize reality as a commensurable whole. Concepts of reason and nature, as much as value and money, are historical instances of such practical instruments of control. Is there such a thing as a stutter in the concept of a thing? I like to think of this as a material moment in thinking. The faltering of speech demands a practical re-organization of the way things appear to frictionlessly cede to transfer. I try and make work that does this, exactly.

- December 2017


Sam Lewitt is an artist who situates his use of various media within historically specific processes of material and symbolic exchange. His work often involves the isolation of industrial techniques and infrastructures, throwing into relief broader conditions of production in which the artwork is situated.

For Stranded Assets (2017), the artist's contribution to the 57th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, Lewitt arranged the loan and display of a set of decorative lamps found in the stairwell of a recently decommissioned power plant in Venice's industrial port of Marghera. Lewitt fabricated a series of reproductions of these lamps from pure compressed fuel ash that was scrubbed from power plant smoke stacks, and displayed both originals and reproductions in a section of the Venetian Arsenale in which the area's power turbines had been housed until the construction of the site in Marghera.

In More Heat than Light and Less Light Warm Words (2015-16), installed in solo exhibitions at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco and Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland, and the Swiss Institute, New York, respectively, Lewitt engineered specially manufactured heating circuits used for the regulation of internal temperatures in environmentally sensitive media systems and redirected all available energy that flowed through the institutional lighting grids in the exhibition spaces. Fluid Employment (2012), presented at the 2012 Whitney Biennial, New York, involved a crude system of display and a corresponding pattern of labor, established around a magnetic fluid used to reduce friction in industrial manufacturing. This material, which slowly coagulates when exposed to open air, was allowed to congeal and be re-poured at two-week intervals throughout the exhibition's duration.

Lewitt's work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including A Slow Succession with Many Interruptions, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (2016), and Nature after Nature, Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany (2014). With Richard Birkett, he co-organized and contributed work to the exhibition and Materials and Money and Crisis at Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, Austria (2014).

Lewitt was named the Spring 2018 Cornell University Teiger Mentor in the Arts. His writing has appeared in publications such as Artforum, Collapse, CURA, Mousse, October, and Texte zur Kunst, as well as numerous edited volumes and catalogs. He holds a B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts.

A metallic mechanisms underneath an orange and maroon glass carpet. In its front two black circular devices with numbers of Fahrenheit and Celsius. Behind it in the white gallery room, black cords hang from the ceiling connecting to rectangular surfaces on the ground. In the back right a door opening covered by a transparent yellow curtain.

Installation view of More Heat than Light, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland, 2016.

A metallic mechanisms underneath a orange and maroon glass carpet. In its front two black circular devices with numbers of Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Installation view of More Heat than Light, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland, 2016.

Three aligned frames on a wall in the outline of books. Two on either side sit empty with a gray-brown background, while the one in the middle has white long lights and cables.

Installation view of Stranded Assets, the 57th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2017.

Open books in a surface with burn marks and small devices with cables connected to their surfaces.

Installation view of Stranded Assets, the 57th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2017.

Four open books on top of each other supported by two upside down buckets. A third bucket behind them with the cap on has writing on it.

Stranded Asset: Filler, 2017, cast fuel ash, four copies of book (ENEL modulo 2, Protezione Ambientale), Murano glass, three buckets of fuel ash (Kraftwerk Reuter West: Mineral Deutschland GmbH [Berlin]), plastic sheeting, 8" x 20" x 15."

Three lines of different lengths on two white walls. They are made of a metallic material that has been bended in different section of the length in various patterns.

Installation view of Casual Encounters, Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York, 2014.

A white glass surface centers around a black glass one with hues of brown and elevated patterns on the outline. The reflection of a person with a camera covering their face can be seen on the black surface.

Material for Fluid Employment, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012.