Sculptor John Bisbee is celebrated for his masterful work created exclusively from forged and welded nails, transforming their simple form into sculptures that defy the imagination. From tiny nails to 12-inch spikes, Bisbee has been welding, hammering, and bending nails for the past 30 years. John Bisbee: American Steel is a statement about the current political and cultural state of America. Set against the backdrop of declining American manufacturing, factory outsourcing, and the mechanization of labor, American Steel is a metaphor for larger conversations about economics, culture, and America’s uncertain place in the world.
In the exhibition catalog essay, Glenn Adamson, senior scholar at the Yale Center for British Art and former director of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, writes, “Constructed entirely from nails, by hand, Bisbee’s objects draw on a deep well of American historical and vernacular imagery. They are made in a spirit of solidarity with workers of all kinds; each nail expresses the idea of things joined together. Yet the exhibition also has a critical edge. Bisbee uses poetic language, narrative imagery, and potent emblems to express his concern with our country’s direction. American Steel is thus a statement on current affairs: in his own words, an “abstraction of who are we are, right now.”
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John Bisbee: American Steel is on view at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (12 Winter Street, Rockland, Maine) from June 30 through October 14, 2018.