Beastly Cakes by Scott Hove

Taxidermy and decorative cakes are Scott Hove’s idea of a good time. His artwork makes him happy, he told an interviewer last year after his exhibit Master of Rapacity at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco. Of course, Hove’s confectionery monsters, made from carvable polyurethane foam and painted plywood, are meant to be disturbing. The attractive, familiar aesthetics of cake draw us into a sudden encounter with the most primitive of all fears: tigers, wolves, mountain lions, reduced in this case to their teeth. The result is funny, but also genuinely unnerving; as if, despite the joke, these cakes might actually eat you.

Wild animals are not the only hostile element in Hove’s work. In his 2013 show Guns and Ecstasy, the artist produced automatic weapons outfitted with rich frosting, delicate swirls, and sumptuous cherries (how this escaped the attention of Gun Digest I don’t know).  Switchblades are also commonplace in Hove’s sculptures. Often these threatening features occur unexpectedly: blades on the sides of a cakeified high-heel, small mouths baring teeth on a decorated chandelier. It’s an art that titillates paranoia around ordinary objects, and in that way it might be tapping into a very deep human instinct.

Maybe the most memorable thing about Hove’s sculptures is that, really, they’re quite lovely. The perfect symmetry, the bright pinks and blues and elaborate frosting designs really do leave you with a good feeling. That’s something most (sardonic) contemporary art can’t claim, and another sign of Hove’s uniqueness in the art world. “Usually my art serves the function of helping me process shit that scares me,” says Hove. It’s unclear whether the cakes work as a psychological cure (artistic shock treatment?), but their entertainment value is beyond question.

Hove’s latest exhibition, Pussy Jihad, on view in April at the La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, is politically incendiary. One cake reads “Happy Graduation Boko Haram,” and another “Welcome Home Islamic State.” Maybe, sensing that wild animals no longer inspire the terror they once did, Hove’s practice is shifting towards a fear that’s closer to home.