Art review: ‘Through the Grapevine’ at the Center for Land Use Interpretation

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Ghost towns are fascinating places because they allow visitors to transport themselves, in their imaginations, to past times and places. Ghost roads are not as well known. But they do something similar to their more marketable counterparts, and, in a sense, even better.

Ghost roads take us to places that were designed, constructed and maintained with the sole purpose of being passed through — the more swiftly and safely the better. Even as ruins, they fulfill their original purposes, often in ways their makers never intended.

That’s exactly what the staff of the Center for Land Use Interpretation does in its readily accessible presentations: get visitors to see what exists in the world in ways that make everything about it more interesting. “Through the Grapevine: Streams of Transit in Southern California’s Great Pass” takes the standard format of image-and-text Conceptualism and turns it into a moving journey through the history of the roadways, aqueducts, pipelines and electrical lines that have been built through the Grapevine throughout the 20th century.

The stars of show are the three roadways: the Ridge Route from 1915, Highway 99 from 1933 and Interstate 5 from 1970. Each is featured on a small monitor, where images and captions present visitors with basic summaries. Two other monitors add information about the serpentine paths water and energy have traveled and continue to move through the pass. Above all five monitors, a large, high-definition flat-screen conveys the grandeur and the gorgeousness of the landscape between the San Gabriel and Tehachapi Mountains.


The most riveting part of the silent multimedia show focuses on the 10-mile stretch where the Ridge Route, the 99 and the 5 diverge. This area, from just south of Castaic Lake to just west of Quail Lake, is where the past is most visible and the two ghost roads reveal their vanishing secrets. By turns inspiring, crazy and haunting, they take you on trips far beyond their physical ends.

– David Pagel

“Through the Grapevine,” the Center for Land Use Interpretation, 9331 Venice Blvd., Culver City, (310) 839-5722. Runs indefinitely. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Images: Dead Man’s Curve (top) and Ridge Route 15. Courtesy of the Center For Land Use Interpretation.