Everyone loves a masturbating monkey, Stefanie Gutheil, “Ape” (2011), oil and textile on canvas (image by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Filled with giant paintings of animals vomiting rainbows, the only phrase I can think of to describe German artist Stefanie Gutheil’s Dreckige Katze at the Mike Weiss Gallery is “technicolor puke.” But the show, which resembles Hieronymus Bosch on a bad acid trip, was anything but boring.

In Gutheil’s second solo show, she has turned the Mike Weiss Gallery into a psychedelic hell with images of laser-eyed cats, masturbating monkeys and puking dogs are presented on wall-sized canvases.

Having just come from the opening a few hours earlier, it is difficult to process the amount of bizarre imagery seen in just one opening. Not only does Gutheil use weird images of vomiting, she also puts all different materials together on the canvas from aluminum foil to plastic pearl necklaces to leopard print fabric.

Stefanie Gutheil, Lazerpussy, 2011, oil, acrylic, fabric, foil, and mixed media on canvas (image by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

I’m still not sure what the point of Gutheil’s work is, but in the end, how much does that matter? I found her work to be fascinating, fun, confusing and totally frightening. The striking amount of vomiting also made me feel a little queasy, but I’m taking it now as a word choice challenge to see how many words for vomiting I can use in an article.

Stefanie Gutheil, Party Downstairs, 2010, Oil, fabric and foil on canvas (photo by the author)

The paintings were so large that it was hard to be able to photograph them without hitting into another hurl-fest portrait behind you. Each canvas seemed to contain a multitude of characters, animals and other actions going on, making it near impossible for the viewer to take it all in at once. The utter complexity of the work was overwhelming, which drove me to study the paintings for a long time and realizing how completely disturbing the imagery is.

Remembering the show, I keep getting different parts of the complex works floating into my consciousness such as this dog blowing chunks. A detail of the painting”Lazerpussy” (2011), the dog’s body is covered with aluminum foil and the thick globs of paint highlight the varied colored sick.

Detail of Stefanie Gutheil, “Big Cat Squeezing” (2011), Oil and fabric on canvas (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

The exhibition title, Dreckige Katze, translates as “Dirty Cat” in English, so it was safe to assume many of the paintings contained cat imagery … who said they were only for internet memes? Often there were multiple cats hidden in one large painting. I’ve been trying to figure out the meaning of the cats such as in “Big Cat Squeezing” (2011), where the big cat is squishing some other type of creature that is (surprise!) ralphing.

In addition to the paintings, Gutheil also had sculptures on display and they demonstrated a definite connection to the imagery in the paintings. “Table-Cat-Worm”  (2011) features a cat barfing fake pearl necklaces with creepy toy eyes and big fake teeth. The effect of these sculptures are totally unsettling and frankly, I couldn’t look at them for very long without getting really weirded out.

Stefanie Gutheil, “Table-Cat-Worm” (2011), Wood, varnish, cast oil, acrylic, latex oil, Fimo and metal (photo by author)

Not only cats, Gutheil uses monkeys too in her compositions, which made me wonder if she was a fan of Nick Cave’s band Grinderman who has an album cover similar to “Ape” (2011).

In the end, I’m still grappling with the meaning to these works. While I tend to appreciate the dark, weird art and I did enjoy the composition of the works with the bright colors, three-dimensional touches and totally Bosch-inspired complexity, I continue to question the meaning of the works. What is the point of all of the puke? Is it entirely shock value? What does vomit mean to Stefanie Gutheil?

I also left feeling like Stefanie Gutheil was an extremely angry artist. The tone of her work seems to be full of rage, highlighted by the sickness, vultures and the violence of the paint application. I don’t know how much I really relate to Gutheil’s work but I did have fun viewing it even though I now feel a little sick.

Stefanie Gutheil’s Dreckige Katze will be on view at the Mike Weiss Gallery until October 8, 2011.

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Emily Colucci

Emily Colucci is a recently graduated NYU interdisciplinary Master's student with a focus on art history and gender/sexuality studies. Her interests lie in graffiti, street art and New York-based art from...

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