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Photo by Leisa Thompson

The Art of Tyree Guyton: A Thirty-Year Journey

Artist: Tyree Guyton
August 22, 2015 - January 3, 2016
Irving Stenn, Jr. Family Gallery

The Heidelberg Project is one of the largest, best-known, and longest-running site-specific art installations in the country. Occupying more than two blocks along Heidelberg Street on Detroit’s East Side, the project has transformed its neighborhood, covering abandoned houses, the street, and the surrounding area with collections of found objects and vividly rendered paintings.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, the Heidelberg Project has been the life’s work of artist Tyree Guyton. Guyton grew up on Heidelberg Street, and was encouraged by his housepainter grandfather to choose art as an alternative to drugs and guns. Guyton began the project with his family, and with the help of neighborhood children, they gathered discarded objects, from toys and clothes to televisions and furniture. They painted abandoned houses on the street with bright housepaints and attached objects to the exteriors, turning them into gigantic assemblage sculptures.
Most of the houses have a defined theme. The Baby Doll House (now destroyed) was covered from roof to foundation with discarded toy dolls in various states of repair. Similarly, the Clock House has painted renditions of clocks covering its exterior. The project’s lively and unexpected juxtapositions of objects, words, colors, and symbols create a strange and wonderful immersive world.

The 30-year anniversary of the Heidelberg Project is a moment for Guyton, and his audience, to reflect on what his work has meant to the cultural life of Detroit and beyond. Guyton has created two new works specifically for this exhibition, one in the studio and one in the project. How Much for the City, a mixed-media sculpture, makes reference to his long-standing struggles with city government. On Heidelberg Street, he is building a full-scale house; it will rise on the foundation of a house destroyed by arson. The process of its construction can be viewed on the Heidelberg Television monitor in the gallery. The Art of Tyree Guyton will explore the artist’s involvement with the project through the decades, and also feature a selection of prints and drawings from his more recent studio work.


Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Lisa Applebaum. Additional generous support is provided by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and School of Social Work.