There is no greater disparity between nations sharing a border than the United States and Mexico. Nowhere is this juxtaposition more acute than crossing over from the gentrified city of San Diego to the putrescing barrios of Tijuana. But just as in the grimiest dirt one can find the most beautiful cheap drugs, so too can one find inspiration in the South of the Border Sin City.

Strange New World: Art and Design from Tijuana/Extraño Nuevo Mundo: Arte y diseño desde Tijuana is a show at the Bergamont Station Santa Monica Museum of Art exploring this displaced town.

René Peralta, a Tijuana architect who has a metallic structure twisting through the exhibition, says, “Tijuana is sort of the backdoor to the United States and the front door to America. It's not so much a hybrid place, but it's always in a continuous change which is pulling and pushing between the border: … between many issues from geography to urbanization and many other aspects as well.”

Peralta's structure alludes to the metallic bars that decorate the half-completed homes peppering parts of the city. He notes that Tijuana has been built by the people who have lived there, with 70 percent of the houses erected by non-architects. Acting as a synecdoche to the city itself, the majority of these houses have been created illegally – though no one seems to care.

Most American visitors to Tijuana never leave La Tira (“The Strip”) and don't see the makeshift domiciles of the residents they're exploiting – the walls of a home are discarded garage doors, the floors are dirt. However, whenever a house is built, metallic bars – the same Peralta alludes to   – are always left visible.  

This is not some leftist, Marxist allusion to Che's principals, rather it is the symbol of hope that the house is not yet completed and that one day this homeowner will have enough money to build the house of their dreams. Buena suerte.

Santa Monica Museum of Art is located at Bergamot Station G1, 2525 Michigan Ave. in Santa Monica. Hours: Tues-Sat: 11a.m.-6p.m., Closed Sunday & Monday. For more information, call (310) 586-6488 or visit www.smmoa.org.