Photos: This Cake-Themed Infinity Room Looks Good Enough To Eat
By Jenn Swann
For more than a decade, the L.A. artist Scott Hove has been creating sculptures that resemble massive frosted cakes. The installations are gorgeous, mesmerizing, and intricately covered with imitation flowers, cherries, and jewels. Dubbed “Cakeland,” the series of immersive environments look sweet enough to eat and delicious enough to Instagram.
But at a politically divisive time when cake has become a symbol of complacency (see: Tina Fey's "sheetcaking" SNL sketch), is it irresponsible to create art that's simply pretty to look at? That’s the question that Hove seems to be grappling with in his latest pair of installations, both titled “Last Ticket For the Beauty Train,” which are being exhibited concurrently at two different Los Angeles locations this month.
“In the context that we’re in where people are really stressed out and they’re afraid of the future, presenting something that’s overly decadent can come across as sort of suspect,” says Hove. “I had to re-contextualize it with this new political climate that we’re in — without naming any names and without continuing the narrative that we’re used to every day of disgust and what’s happened every day in the news that further reinforces our disgust.”
The first of his two L.A. exhibitions, which opened on Friday in Chinatown, consists of what Hove calls a “conversion chamber.” Morbid-sounding name aside, the chamber is actually intended to transform viewers from “the hater state of mind back into a state of mind where you’re appreciating beauty again and loving again,” says Hove. His reasoning? “At this point, that’s going to be a survival skill that we’re all going to need because the future is looking really perilous.”
The chamber is also an infinity room — named for its pentagon of mirrors that reflect the glorious illusion of cake in all directions — and for what it’s worth, it’s probably a lot easier to get tickets to than the infinity rooms designed by artist Yayoi Kusama (All 50,000 tickets for her October exhibition at The Broad sold out in less than an hour on Friday). With ten different hallways, multiple tunnels, a disco ball, colored lights, and a five-tiered inverted cake on the rooftop, Hove’s infinity chamber sounds no less spectacular than any of Kusama’s — or at the very least, similar to an “intense DMT trip,” says Hove.
But there’s more to his installations than the mirrored illusion of miles of pink frosting and sweet, sugary goodness. There’s also a 500-pound pile of cow bones displayed on a pallet next to the “conversion chamber” — a reminder of mortality, Hove says (and another element to help evoke that psychedelic trip). “I will not create an art show or installation that is strictly about the enjoyment and decadence of cake,” Hove says. “It has to be balanced by the darkness.”
Hove debuted his first cake-inspired works in a storefront in the Skid Row area of his native San Francisco in 2006. It wasn’t until that show that he realized the massive frosted sculptures could offer a potent escape from reality. Some viewers were so moved by the confectionery-like installations that they reported smelling vanilla or cherries in the air, Hove says, despite the fact that the sculptures were made completely from artificial, inedible materials like acrylic and house paint. “I take this fantasy that I create very seriously,” he says. “If people are coming here to have an escape moment, I’m going to give it to them.”
Under the Trump administration, that escape might be more appealing than ever, and there’s no shortage of artists and curators who are willing to indulge it. Just look to the popularity of the Museum of Ice Cream, for example, or the success of Kusama’s infinity rooms. “For me, using beauty is a way to be subversive,” says Hove. “It’s almost transgressive to do a beautiful thing right now in this climate because everybody feels like they’re steeling themselves for some type of nasty fight, and I know I am and I know a lot of people around me are.”
Regardless of the political circumstances, “everybody is still going to need to enjoy their cake,” says Hove. Or at least capture it for Instagram.
“Last Ticket for the Beauty Train” is now on display in Chinatown, 936 Mei Ling Way. The second part of the installation opens on Saturday Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. at KP Projects, 170 S. La Brea Ave. RSVPs to firstname.lastname@example.org are required for both exhibitions, which run through Sept 30.