Getting Small With the Frostig Collection at Scape

Sweet charity
Getting small with the Frostig Collection

As a critic, nothing strikes terror into your heart like a charity art show. If the show totally sucks, you have few options. Either you can be a total hypocrite and write a piece that's as puffy and sticky-sweet as cotton candy, or you can say that the show sucks and look like a heartless asshole for tearing down this nice thing that's benefiting the poor orphans who have to crawl everywhere because their little feet burned off in a fire.

It's a rare joy when a charity show is just genuinely good, one you would gladly recommend for reasons other than feeling too guilty not to. Last month's "Roll for a Cure" show at the Grand Central Art Center was one such rare joy. And miracle of miracles, here's another one, just a few weeks later: Corona del Mar's Scape is presenting the latest installment of the Frostig Collection, an annual, traveling show featuring major artists donating work, with proceeds going to research for kids with learning disabilities. It's worthwhile art for a more-than-worthwhile cause.

Doorstop? Gargoyle? Steve Buscemi action figure?
R. Kenton Nelson's "Chet," 2006, Cast bronze
Doorstop? Gargoyle? Steve Buscemi action figure?

This year's collection is a mix of new prints and sculptural pieces from previous years. Among the new stuff, Gary Baseman gives us The Ultimate Sacrifice, featuring a grinning snowman melting away so his sick-looking mermaid love can have a little water. (Well, he's also licking her with a big, wet tongue coming out of his midsection, so one has to question the purity of his motives here.) It's as cute as you would expect a Baseman to be, but it has additional, tasty layers of perversion and melancholy. R. Kenton Nelson's Preserving Life is also a winner, a lithograph featuring an ass-kicking lady lifeguard looking like she just stepped off the cover of a New Yorker from 1945.

But to be honest, the prints just don't hold your attention the way the sculptures do. Clinging quietly to the walls, with their tasteful, non-clashing colors, the prints mostly serve as a pretty backdrop for all the wild stuff the sculptures are doing. Charles Arnoldi's 2006 abstract print Orphan is easy on the eyes, but it's just not as interesting as his inexplicable, tumbling potato sculpture, also on display here. (And if you're looking for a name for your college band, may we suggest the Inexplicable Tumbling Potatoes?)

Arnoldi's potatoes are part of a really charming set of little maquettes from 2005, featuring five pieces by five artists. Crybaby presents three metal potatoes, frozen in time as they fall to Earth. Well, why the heck not? Sarah Perry's Speak for Me depicts a supine bird with a human face growing out of its belly, and neither the bird nor the face look too happy. Can you blame them? There's also a stretching dog, a little suitcase and something sort of like a cartoon bird's foot. These peculiar objects do seem to belong together, like game pieces from a Monopoly board designed by Salvador Dali. ("I call dibs on the stretching dog!" "No fair! I'm always stuck with the falling potatoes!")

Arnoldi isn't the only artist here doing double duty. Nelson also has a little sculpture, a creepy, grinning hotel bellhop named Chet. His name, occupation and unctuous air call to mind Steve Buscemi's bellhop cameo from Barton Fink, but this poor dope is even less glamorous than Buscemi. The lady in Nelson's Preserving Life is a haughty, heroic-proportioned beauty, and even if these two worked in the same hotel (she by the pool, he schlepping bags), she'd probably stride right past poor, cartoonish Chet without a glance, breaking his little bronze heart.

And there's still more—including work by legendary architect Frank Gehry! This show is full of dazzling stuff, all of it small enough to make a tasteful and unobtrusive addition to your home—assuming you've got a few grand to blow on home décor. We know that's a lot to spend . . . but think of the children. After all, thanks to them, this stuff is tax-deductible.

"The Frostig Collection" at Scape, 2859 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 723-3406; www.scapesite.com. Open Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Through June 28.

 
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