Overcoming Road Blocs

Ronn Davis works in a studio in his Topanga Canyon home and in a studio in Inglewood, where he has lived for many years.

His distinct views from those two vantage points will be on display in "Both Sides of the 405," which can be viewed Monday through April 7 at the Santa Monica College Art Gallery. Davis will attend an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 17.

The exhibit, which includes more than a dozen pieces, explores the differences in art, culture, politics and even language that exist on opposite sides of the San Diego Freeway.

"It's about my experience living and working on the east side of the freeway, and the social and political energies there as opposed to the west," the Los Angeles native said.

"I am trying to deal with these thoughts through a creative process."

Since he started teaching at Santa Monica College in 1989, Davis said he began to notice a distinct cultural gap.

He noted that in many areas east of the freeway, art tends to be more spontaneous and emotional. West of the freeway, it tends to be more calculated and intellectual.

"The east side is reality. It's more volatile," he said. "The west side is the idea of life. It carries an image and a burden because we are constantly evaluating ourselves and our ZIP codes."

On the west side, you may greet someone and engage in a lengthy conversation. On the east side, more residents tend to be out in the streets, yet it is less likely that you will make direct eye contact or interact with a stranger, he says.

"My art is saying one is not better," said Davis, who graduated with art degrees from Cal State Long Beach and Claremont College. "I think it's important to experience both. I am trying to have a dialogue with both communities."

Davis describes his works as "constructs." He uses a combination of natural and manufactured materials including wood, bone and metal as well as a variety of painting techniques.

"Everything I do is a self-portrait," he said. "By looking at me, I hope they will have a better sense of themselves."

"Both Sides of the 405" will be exhibited Monday through April 7. Santa Monica College Art Gallery, 1900 Pico Blvd. Gallery hours are 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 17. Admission is free. Information: (310) 452-9231.

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