CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Conglomerations: Eichorst's excessive visions

Did you happen to catch any of this season's Project Runway on the Bravo channel? If so, you witnessed fashion designer Santino Rice week after week go from promising beginnings to garments glommed over with frou-frou and excessive "wickety-wack." For some creative types, one of the biggest challenges is knowing when to say when.

Like Rice, local artist Aaron Eichorst– whose work is currently on view at the Mudhouse– trends toward a "more is better" approach. Of his semi-abstract pieces combining acrylic paint and mixed-media collage, Eichorst writes, "Each is an individual exploration of design, color, and texture." He should have added a pluralizing "s" to those last three singular nouns.

In fact, his works have so much going on– from layered shapes reminiscent of Matisse cut-outs to pasted-in bits of magazines to textured areas of built-up paint to color, color, and more color– that it's hard to know where to look. And the sum never quite surmounts all the disparate parts. Eichorst's components often swirl in vortexes, calling to mind how movies from the late 1960s and early '70s depicted LSD trips.

Although the works are rife with color, Eichorst's palette choices don't always make sense. In "Migration," he outlines three birds in rich yellow, blue, and violet, respectively, but places them against a muddy mustard background that detracts from the saturated jewel tones.

Likewise, "Offering" presents layered bright blue and yellow shapes on the lower right, countered by drab gray and brown elements on the upper left. Meanwhile, a sticky slick of bubblegum pink twists vertically beside the image's central red-orange skull.

Eichorst's amalgamations suggest a personal symbolism that's no doubt meaningful to the artist, but, unfortunately, is obscure to the viewer. When the artist incorporates human figures, they're invariably square-jawed, well-muscled males. Why is unclear.

Not surprisingly, the most successful pieces in the exhibition are also the least maximal. The five computer-generated photo collages displayed at the rear of the Mudhouse use statuary (literally cut males), flames, and moth wings to offer moody studies that play with mirrored images and negative space.

In "Phantom I" and "Phantom II," magentas and reds edge out of dark inky squares that contain ethereal figures delineated by empty space. Each image achieves both balance and movement via a single smudgy column of flame.

Unlike Eichorst's larger works, these smaller pieces are subtle and unified– with no excessive "wickety wack" in sight.

"New Work by Aaron Eichorst" hangs at the Mudhouse through April 3. 213 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 977-2041.

publicity photo