For Students

In Focus: New Acquisition Gregory Holm

Gregory Holm, Ice House

Gregory Holm
United States, born 1971
Ice House
Digital print
Museum Purchase, 2012/2.2

During the recent economic downturn, Detroit acquired the reputation as having perhaps the worst rate of home foreclosures of any city in the nation. Officials estimated that one third of Detroit’s houses, roughly 80,000, were abandoned. What to do with so many empty homes, considered a symptom of urban blight? Two artists with firsthand experience with this dilemma came together in early 2010 to address the situation, photographer Gregory Holm and architect Matthew Radune. Holm has long been active in his native Detroit while Radune had been evicted in 2007 from his New York apartment with only five hours’ notice. The issue of home foreclosure, demolition, and relocation is inherently political in nature. As Radune writes, “It affects the integrity and history of neighborhoods and cities alike.”

Holm and Radune proposed selecting an abandoned house slated for demolition and covering it in ice in the dead of winter. Following the completion of the project, the artists would work with the city and others to recycle as much of the house as possible—wire, glass, cement, etc.—and reclaim the land for urban farming (a positive side of city downsizing and an area in which Detroit is at the forefront). Documenting the installation, the artists proposed producing a limited edition book, a film (see, and fine art digital prints, such as this one.

During the coldest days early in 2010, the house was covered with water. The ice creates a delicate vitreous sheath that obscures the decline of the house, while the extremely long icicles provide delicate vertical accents that knit the house together. Seen in daylight, the Ice House gives little indication of the effect of the site at night. Photographed at night, the transformation is magical: the resultant structure evokes German or Nordic fairy tales set in a wood and illuminated by an ethereal unseen light source. Holm’s photograph asks us to “explore the options” available to urban environments that fall on hard times—and challenges the rest of us to imagine the best possible solutions in the face of difficult choices.

This new acquisition will be on view in the first-floor connector between the Museum’s historic wing and the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing from July 8 through October 7, 2013.