New York

Pat Lasch

A.I.R. Gallery

A review is no place for True Confessions, but I’ve always been a big fan of PAT LASCH’s cakes. Her earlier undersized gateaux, bearing given names and messages of “felicitations,” made one think that there is a happy community of Dickensian friends and relatives safely nestled somewhere in the artbiz. If this celebratory network remained out of reach (who were these people anyway?), at least it generated as happy a deprivation as staring through a bakery window. Her two tiered and rosetta’d wedding cakes, one white, one black, were first shown in the windows of the Holly Solomon Gallery. Despite their cardboard and acrylic construction, they looked edible, but laden with sharp fins and other impedimenta dentata, they also looked hard to swallow. As a kind of horrendous advertisement for Before and After, these were extremely effective, giving them a certain direction and pointed to what otherwise might have been simply a sweet (no pun intended) aside.

Perhaps one of the reasons the new series of miniature cakes—without messages—comes off so well is that it retains that dichotomy. The white cake is the exposition, the black cake the commentary. The white cake is the party, the black cake the uninvited guest. The more specific reason for their success, however, is that they are still cakes. As such, they allow Lasch to indulge her virtuosity in formal matters without losing her audience; as Kay Larson says, why should a pastry tube “be any less sublime than bristles?” They also allow the odd fetishistic touches—carefully arranged tufts of hair in the icing or excessively, almost antagonistically curled doilies at the base—to remain touches. They’re as unsettling as the moving object glimpsed out of the corner of your eye—though it depends on how much attention you’re willing to give the matter.

What’s a True Confession without a disappointment? Though a fan of Lasch, I have my doubts about the five black towers that are the focus of this show. To be blunt, the problem is that there may be too much fetish and not enough cake—flirting with the spindly and the fussy, full of pendant beads, veils, threads and hair. But even if the confection were actually digestible, there would be very little to sink your teeth into. The constructions are top-heavy, at least it seems that way when you come across the skull of a tiny animal near the summit of Wilhelmina’s Layered Funeral Pyre. Is the tongue in the cheek or the hand too heavy? If Lasch is parodying her past work, okay. If she’s serious, on the other hand, it may be that she’s a little too serious.

Jeanne Silverthorne