Cake meets art in a tiny space.
By Jennifer Moss
VANCOUVER – “In lieu of an artist’s statement, cake will be served.” Somewhat perversely, this sentence is, in fact, Leah Rosenberg’s saucy artist’s statement for her work in the group show Let Them Eat Cake, on now at Gallery Atsui in Vancouver’s downtown east side. And she’s perfectly serious.
Rosenberg happens to work at San Francisco’s famous Tartine Bakery, and for the opening, she has prepared a fabulous, multi-layered pink cake with cream cheese icing that tastes as good as it looks.
“A cake to me is a work of art with the intention of generosity,” says Rosenberg, “it is an evocative work of colour and balance.”
Rosenberg’s non-edible works, most of which she makes by using layer-upon-colourful-layer of acrylic paint, recall the hard-edge style of the late 1950s and are reminiscent of decadent French pastries. This is particularly true of her three-dimensional layered piece entitled Cake on Wall, and her flan-like, triangular, Piece of Cake #1.
If Rosenberg’s work suggests the physical form of cake, Vancouver photographer Jennifer Mawby’s sensual and mysterious photographs represent the spirit of cake, which is of course the spirit of consumption.
Asked how she approached this show, Mawby says, “Cake is something people love to consume. If people engaged in art with the same freedom, it would be way more enjoyable.”
Viewing her piece Manicure is like looking at an image from a vintage fashion magazine through an old pair of opera glasses. The result is an obscured beauty, blurred and pixelated, somewhat suggestive of work by painter Gerhard Richter, and quite different from the carefully staged hyper-reality of Vancouver School photographers like Jeff Wall.
And if there is a direct connection to the old-world phrase, “Let them eat cake” in this show, it has to be painter and tapestry artist Ruth Jones, who learned her historic European tapestry technique in Aubusson, France, and whose exquisitely crafted and slightly disturbing woven tapestry Ta Patisserie hangs near the front of the gallery.
It features a woman holding out a melting pastry. The woman, with her hair piled on top of her head like some kind of elaborate St. Honoré cake, somehow channels Marie Antoinette, whose glib remark in the face of starving French peasants is the basis for the title of this show.
The Atsui’s guest-curator Sherri Kajiwara, formerly of the Buschlen Mowatt, Pthalo, and Bjornson Kajiwara Galleries, and now working with Vantage Art Projects, has had Marie Antoinette on the brain for some time.
“Ever since I saw the Sophia Coppola movie about her,” she confesses.
The irony of mounting a show called Let them Eat Cake in a gallery on the downtown east-side isn’t lost on Kajiwara.
“The show works on a number of levels,” she says. Social commentary aside, Kajiwara wanted to explore the fun side of art in a conscious way. It’s an active curatorial vision, one that includes hosting tea parties at the gallery every Saturday, and involving food artist Joanne Strongman, whose faux-food sculpture There is no Cake” greets visitors at the entrance.
As for Kajiwara, she is pleased to have the opportunity at Gallery Atsui to develop a concept for a show from the ground up.
“In the past a lot of my curatorial work has been within the confines of the collections, or the artists available to me at the gallery where I’ve worked. This one is different.”
Special to the Sun
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun