Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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John B. Bisbee



Creation Date


Medium & Support

steel nails, wire, metal and wood


10 7/8 in. x 16 1/8 in. x 1 3/4 in. (27.62 cm x 40.96 cm x 4.45 cm)

Credit Line

Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund, and a grant from the Artists' Resource Trust, a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

Accession Number



This artwork may be under copyright. For further information, please consult the Museum’s Copyright Terms and Conditions.

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Brief is made of the essential but often overlooked objects that hold together the spaces we inhabit: nails. In this, the artist’s first sculpture made from the obsessive exploitation of the nail, a dense accretion of rusted brads reveals an organic pattern. Bisbee describes this as the “bioindustrial” quality of his accumulative sculptural practice, which transforms commonly available, inexpensive elements into art material. The work’s everyday character, reinforced by its other found materials (handle, wood, stovepipe and barbed wire) is framed within an overall geometric shape resembling a briefcase. The sculpture’s moot status—as a vessel-like object that contains nothing—embodies the tension between its association with corporate culture and the commonplace qualities of the materials from which it’s made. Its barbed-wire midsection projects an ominous tone.

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