Magazine article Sculpture

John Bisbee

Magazine article Sculpture

John Bisbee

Article excerpt

Center for Maine Contemporary Art

As the belief that art should actively respond to the political climate grows in intensity, many artists find themselves dealing with concepts that have not previously been part of their repertoire. John Bisbee, a Maine-based artist, has spent the past 30 years making abstract biomorphic or geometrical forms using immense aggregations of forged and welded nails. In direct response to the Trump presidency, much of the work that Bisbee created for his recent exhibition "American Steel" is anything but abstract-it is highly literal, topical, and narrative. "For the first time in my life, I'm doing basically three things that I have mocked my entire adult creative career-realism, political satire, and text," he says. The show's title is itself a capacious metaphor that embraces a multitude of references, including American labor, economics, and culture. Bisbee calls his new aesthetic "allegorical realism."

Though the work has changed, the process has not. Bisbee and his team of assistants create everything from nails and spikes that are curved and twisted, looped and piled, bristling or delicately lacelike. They use every possible process connected with steel-welding, cutting, hammering, forging, and bending. "American Steel," which was installed as a semi-linear narrative, relied heavily on text and familiar, even stereotypical imagery. The story took off from the Latin phrase on the American dollar bill: e pluhbus unum, "out of many, one." A series of tableaux followed, unfolding in a somewhat loony and cartoonish fashion. …

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