By Rick Gilbert:
The captivating exhibition Ménage a trois, currently on exhibition at Marion Meyer Contemporary Art in Laguna Beach, is predicated on the idea that the synergy resulting from an alliance of the talents of three different artists will bring the surface not only the best in each individual participant but prove that the whole fruit of their combined efforts is greater that the sum of its parts. Pre-conceiving thirteen projects consisting paintings, sculptures, and painted objects, the trio of artists comprising themselves and executed designated sections of collaborative triptychs which demonstrate both a shared symbiosis and a host of novel and unforeseen relationships.
The modus operandum of the present show is not that of the exquis cadavre method practiced by the Surrealist group during the 1920s and the 1930s. There, the object was for one artist to begin a section of an artwork, hide it, then pass along the adjacent section to be filled in blindly by the next artist, and so on, in a chain. In the present instance, each artist is aware of the dominant theme of each given piece, but allowed full sway in formulating his contribution as the spirit may move him.
Each artist - Lopez, Schoen, Monfils - maintains a distinctive style, favors certain visual vocabulary, is marked by telltale idiosyncrasies and quirks. Between them, the Ménage a trois triumvirate shows strong streaks of Pop, Conceptualism, Abstraction, and Magic Realism. What's fascinating is that, despite their differences, they are able, both consciously, and apparently, subconsciously, to generate interactive work which expresses consensual subservience to a larger theme and which harmonizes seamlessly, even while taking separate tacks which express a wide variety of dissonance as well as resonance.
The most obvious common denominator among the show's participants is a shared color sense or, more precisely, an understanding of the color sense employed by the other two, and an allowance for it. Then there is a similarity in textural finish that is carried off so flawlessly that certain works seem to have been fashioned by a single individual instead of three.
Puns abound in the titles of the artwork, and many pieces involve coy conceptual ploys. Wallpieces assume a variety of shapes and sizes, some becoming grids, others linear arrays. Still others are festooned with appendages, which dangle in space or otherwise protrude in a bid to court their surroundings. Off-kilter structural points of view seem deliberately built into some of the works. The effect of viewing some of the triptychs in a row is like that produced by a receding tunnel perceptual toy.
Freestanding pieces are two-sided, and bear different visual sequences front and back, thus heightening the interaction between the artwork and its habitat. Another facet of Ménage a trois which calls attention to itself is the manner in which the contents of the gallery meld with the special color scheme expressly formatted for the interior for the show's duration. The painted backdrops of the gallery interior expand and enhance the sense of the show as and environment or installation piece.
If the object of experiment is to break new ground and, by doing so, expose new quantities to the light of day, Ménage a trois prosecutes this purpose admirably, by revealing the curious and distinctive ways in which artwork is affected by interacting which adjacent artwork, by interacting with its overall surroundings, and by demonstrating the unique fashion in which an individual painting or sculpture, while still standing on its own and maintaining its special integrity, is skewed by a self-conscious awareness of a collective role.