In ‘American Steel,’ politics finally penetrate the art of John Bisbee

John Bisbee's
John Bisbee’s “American Steel.” Photo by Andrew Estey/Courtesy of Center for Maine Contemporary Art

Sculptor John Bisbee is still bending nails to his will.

He’s back.

It’s been almost a decade since we’ve heard much from sculptor John Bisbee. He’s shown up at other artists’ openings and appeared as a subject in other artists’ art. But we haven’t seen much of his own work since a mid-career retrospective at the Portland Museum of Art in 2008.

This summer, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art features Bisbee’s latest manipulations of the bright common spike in an exhibition titled “John Bisbee | American Steel.” It opens June 30 in Rockland, and for the first time, Bisbee is using his art to talk about politics. The title of the exhibition is a metaphor for larger conversations about economics, culture and America’s uncertain place in the world.

Bisbee forges and welds and transforms the common nail’s simple form into complex sculptures. For more than 30 years, he’s found new ways to tease the nail into a surprising range of forms, from one-ton abstract mounds to a display of wall-mounted, perfectly legible cursive that almost feels delicate.

Back in 2010, he told the Maine Sunday Telegram, “What fascinates me about art is what one person can do with a single idea.”

Bisbee, who lives in Brunswick, has embodied that notion throughout his career and does so still today in this latest body of work that CMCA will show this…

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