L.A.-based artist Scott Hove’s ongoing "Cakeland" series has become a hit with audiences seeking a uniquely immersive experience. His fantastical artificial cake installations, adorned with sparkling acrylic frosting as well as animal fangs and candy-coated faux machine guns, have drawn thousands of visitors in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, including at an exhibition at Think Tank Gallery in 2016.
Hove’s newest project, "Last Ticket for the Beauty Train," builds on the themes he touched on with "Cakeland" — “comfort, pleasure, celebration and their dark counterparts” — with a walk-through installation at Chinatown’s Central Plaza and a separate gallery exhibit at KP Projects on La Brea. The pop-up installation is built around a mirrored funhouse “infinity room” featuring Hove’s signature sacchariferous decoration. He describes it as a “forced conversion chamber to make people turn from haters to lovers,” which is intended “to energize people to have a new appreciation for beauty.” We asked him some questions about his newest glimpse at the dark side of beauty.
How is this project connected to "Cakeland"?
It’s an evolution of the same concept but recontextualized into the current climate. Whatever’s going on in the world affects how I’m going to present it. It’s really decadent stuff, so there has to be a reason for anything to be so over-the-top.
Is it a criticism of decadence?
It’s a criticism but it’s also a celebration. Decadence, beauty and decoration are a lost art in a lot of ways. But that kind of a decadence also seems uncalled for in a time when everybody’s under so much pressure. The project offers a fantasy experience that is very decadent but that has a narrative of light and dark. If it was all just fake cake, that would be more of an amusement than anything else. The battle between the light and the dark is always the story that I’m trying to tell.
How did you go about building the “infinity room” installation?
I start with the concept of something that I’d really like to see and then I chase down that idea and use whatever materials are around to make it work. I’ve done a number of reflection chambers like this. And each time I do one, I see the potential of how it could be dramatically better the next time.
For this room, I built five tiers to the ceiling and added changing lights and a lot of stuff I’ve never done before to give the viewer more of a dramatic experience. It has to have a transcendent quality. I want people to come in here and be completely swept up into a different world. It’s just a pile of wood and mirrors, but when you walk in and close the door, you have absolute infinity of changing light. Along with the cake and the sparkling rhinestones, it really is another world.
Given the climate in the country right now, do you think people are looking for this kind of escape?
People need an escape from the grind. A lot of my most loyal fans are looking for an escape, too. It attracts a lot of people who have had trauma in their lives and who are trying to have a positive experience to cover up that fear and trauma.
There seems to be a movement in the art world toward creating immersive installations. Why do you think these kinds of experiences are becoming more popular?
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That’s actually one of the reasons I came to L.A. [The city] has a long history of creating high-production-quality experiences, going back to movies, theater or music. Art is no different. L.A. has a natural, native culture that fosters that kind of thinking and large-scale art. But most importantly, it’s still affordable. It’s getting more expensive, but you can still get a large space and do a warehouse-sized work of art. And it’s totally feasible and nobody’s going to be surprised about it. People don’t question it or wonder if it can be done. People here do everything they can to help facilitate it.
My intention is to turn this project into a permanent thing. I want to build a permanent "Cakeland" where people would pay admission to have a really comprehensive experience. It’s a business model that I’ve seen again and again that seems to be very successful. Just look at the 14th Factory or the Museum of Ice Cream or Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. Presenting art and charging admission is somewhat controversial, but it’s a part of this new business model.
It’s hard selling art. At my last two openings, I had 3,000 to 4,000 people standing in line to get in. But not many of them were there to buy art; they were there to have that experience. These kinds of installations seem to be the new evolution of the art viewing experience.
The installation will be on view in Chinatown at 936 Mei Ling Way and KP Projects at 170 S. La Brea Ave. through Sept. 30. Both shows are free. kpprojects.net.