Artwork I have curated to be included in the private exhibit to be requested by Dr. Khan.

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Ups and Downs

Accession Number

Ups and Downs

Tyree Guyton

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
acrylic on masonite

25 13/16 in x 49 3/4 in (65.56 cm x 126.37 cm);25 5/8 in x 49 5/8 in (65.09 cm x 126.05 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of The Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art Collection

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Grandpa was a housepainter. When I was eight years old, he stuck
a paintbrush in my hand. I felt as if I was holding a magic wand.
—Tyree Guyton
In Ups and Downs, Tyree Guyton forges a simple but memorable image of a male and female figure that addresses a universal issue—the ups and downs of life. Guyton’s work is animated by his faith in art’s ability to connect people and motivate social change. He is most well known for the Heidelberg Project, a multi-media installation begun in 1986 that transformed the streets, buildings and grounds of a neighborhood in one of the most economically and socially challenged areas of his native Detroit. The motif of faces is a recurring one in the Heidelberg Project and Guyton’s other work. Combining bold abstract painting—in the style represented by the work on view—with recycled materials of all kinds from car hoods to children’s toys, the Heidelberg Project brought national and international attention to Guyton as well as positive change to this depressed neighborhood.
Trained as a painter at Detroit’s Center for Creative Studies, Guyton was particularly influenced by the work of Pablo Picasso and Lester Johnson—both represented in UMMA’s Modern and Contemporary Galleries—as well as that of his teacher, Charles McGee, and Andy Warhol.

Subject matter
This Detroit-based artist is most well-known for his large-scale installation called "The Heidelberg Project." In “Ups and Downs," two figures, one male and one female, confront the viewer with large smiles. This work was part of a large series of works that depict single and paired figures, called "Faces." The work's title was derived from the purple “tears” that drip down the face of the male figure and upwards on the female figure. Guyton is most interested in thinking about composition more broadly as "to form by putting together." The two gendered figures come together, with juxtaposing directional elements. 

Physical Description
Two abstracted, bust-length figures, one male and one female, look directly at the viewer with large smiles. The background is tan, and filled with swirling lines and scribbles. The face and eyes of each figure are outlined in thick green, the mouths in thick yellow. The “whites” of the eyes are red, while the pupils are circles of pale purple. Purple paint drips down from the eyes of the male figure, while the paint on the female figure drips upward.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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Abstract (fine arts style)
African American
figures (representations)
folk art (traditional art)
found objects
men (male humans)
outsider art
tear (secretion)
women (female humans)

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