David Halle's idea was to connect culture to everyday life by showing how people actually use the artifacts of culture paintings, photographs, sculpture - in the most intimate of all settings: the home. Halle takes the reader on a tour of 160 homes in and around New York City. From affluent townhouses on Manhattan's Upper East Side and rowhouses in blue-collar Brooklyn to the suburbs of Long Island, Halle walked through living rooms and dens, inventoried the works on display, and talked to homeowners about the art around them. The result is a portrait of the uses of art and a look at the meanings of art for its primary audience - those who buy it and live with it. Are there differences in artistic preferences between social classes or races or between urban and suburban homes? Similarities? How do choices in art works - and the way we display them - speak to our dreams, desires, pleasures, and fears? And what do they say about the real cultural boundaries between elite and popular, high and low? Halle examines landscapes, both priceless heirlooms and mass-produced sunsets; abstract paintings and prints; "primitive" sculpture; and the vibrantly coloured portraits of religious art.
He also discusses the gatherings of family photographs that fill every home. Why have saints vanished from religious art? How do liberal whites and middle-class blacks find different meanings in the African art they both proudly display? What accounts for the disappearance of the painted family portrait? Why are landscapes universally popular? What accounts for the popularity of abstract art in affluent homes, but nowhere else? These are just some of the fascinating questions Halle confronts. Refusing easy generalisations about culture and class, Halle shows that art has a different set of meanings outside museums and galleries; for its consumers, the experience of art isn't always what artists and critics say it is. With floor plans, drawings, and photographs, this book should be enjoyed on many levels. It describes the way a broad cross-section of people live with art. It records an astonishing variety of artistic experience. And it changes the ongoing conversation about what culture contains, what it controls, and what the products called "art" mean.
List of Illustrations List of Tables Acknowledgments Introduction 1: The House and Its Context 2: Empty Terrain: The Vision of the Landscape in the Residences of Contemporary Americans 3: Portraits and Family Photographs: From the Promotion to the Submersion of Self 4: Abstract Art 5: "Primitive" Art 6: The Truncated Madonna and Other Modern Catholic Iconography Conclusion Appendix Notes Index