of the Art
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Now, Halle commutes each week to Westwood. The routine, though grueling, offers Halle a privileged view of the two cities, and that perspective influences the projects of the Neiman Center that he heads. A 1999 conference led to Los Angeles and New York, a forthcoming book of essays edited by Halle. The center is sponsoring an exhibition of photographs of Harlem and South Central Los Angeles. And in cooperation with a City University of New York researcher, and with funding from the National Science Foundation, the center is also creating a series of interactive maps of art galleries in Los Angeles and New York.
Such projects are a divergence from Halle's original specialization of class issues and political sociology, territory that he covered in his first book, America's Working Man: Work, Home and Politics Among Blue-Collar Property Owners (University of Chicago Press).
"I was never that interested in art," he confesses.
While writing the book, which was published in 1984, he became fascinated with the way in which homeowners alter their dwellings. That interest evolved into 1994's Inside Culture: Art and Class in the American Home (University of Chicago Press), a look at the interior element that struck him as the most revealing of a home's occupants: art. The book examined such obscure changes as the disappearance of the painted family portrait, which largely has been replaced by framed and clustered family photos.
"I came to the conclusion that family photographs --moveable and clustered together --reflect the fragility of the modern family," Halle says. "When a new family member comes in and an old one gets ejected, you can just replace photographs."
Such insights attracted the attention of LeRoy Neiman's lead dealer, who introduced Halle to the enormously popular artist. "We got on very well right away," Halle says. Seven years later, Neiman donated $1 million to fund the center at UCLA.
At home, Halle may demand unadorned walls. But in his Westwood office, he's surrounded by Neiman lithographs, which, as it happens, tell the story of Halle's dual passions: In the center of one wall hangs a depiction of the Statue of Liberty; on the opposite wall is a Hollywood scene.
"They give the place a bit of a pizzazz," he says with a smile.
Meg Sullivan is a senior media relations representative in the College of Letters and Science.