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Cats. Art. Okay, my work here is done. I had you at “cats,” right? Our feline friends will be the subject of “Cat Art Show Los Angeles,” opening on January 25 at 101/Exhibit gallery in L.A., curated by journalist Susan Michals.
The first-time curator gathered works about cats from an eclectic group of artists, including Tracey Emin, Martin Eder, Jonathan Yeo, Ray Caesar, Shepard Fairey, and Mercedes Heinwein. Touted as “the largest multi-artist exhibition of cat inspired artwork for sale ever exhibited,” “Cat Art Show Los Angeles” will only be on view until February 2, so you’ll want to get over there as soon as paw-sible. We spoke to Michals, who owns a Maine Coon named Miss Kitty Pretty Girl, about her fervor for cats.
WHITEWALL: Cats have enjoyed a renaissance of late, with the Internet’s obsession with felines. Do you think it’s a cat moment?
SUSAN MICHALS: I do feel that it’s a cat moment. It’s gained momentum with I Can Has Cheezburger, and the rise of the celebrity cat—Colonel Meow, Maru, Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub. It’s snowballed. Now, you see the Internet Cat Video Festival [at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis] capitalizing on that trend. There’s a psychological aspect to watching a cat jump into a pool, or sit under a faucet, or what have you. People were looking for a mental respite from the day to day—maybe being unemployed or working too hard.
WW: Why cats?
SM: Because dogs are, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” Cats are not that way. Cats have multi-faceted personalities: “I love you” one moment, and then “back off” with a swipe the next. They are constant forms of entertainment and endearment rolled into one. I’ve always had cats. I’ve always been around them. It’s inherent in my personality to have them in something I would inherently glom onto, and want to work with.
WW: Artists and cats have always had a symbiotic relationship—from Mingus training his cat to use the toilet to Balthus’ images of young girls with felines. Why do you think cats and artists are so intertwined?
SM: When I was doing my research, I Googled artists and cats, and you get a plethora of imagery: Dalí with his cats, Matisse, Hemingway, Kurt Cobain. To me, it’s two-fold. First, [cats are] a companion you can count on, that won’t give you any lip and won’t talk back. Second, artists have always had muses. Cats are just a vessel. A muse can be a dog or a person. Cats can be muses.[Cats are] symbiotic to those particular artists’ personalities. A cat lends itself well to that particular type of personality.
WW: How did the show come together?
SM: I had done interviews with Colonel Meow and Grumpy Cat last year, and there was the Internet Cat Video Festival, so I wanted to do something with cats. A friend of mine and I were thinking, “Lets do an all-cat website, something silly.” As we did our research, we found that there was already so much of that out there. So, we said, “Let’s go to a cat show, and do a mockumentary, like Best in Show with a twist.”
The thing that happened with that was: cat shows won’t let you in if you’re trying to make something with potential profit. It just didn’t pan out. We decided that we should do something with cat art, and I said, “I’m going to talk to the artists I know.” Within two weeks, I had 40 artists. I just became addicted. I went to Ray Caesar, and he agreed. I went to Tracey Emin’s gallery, Lehmann Maupin, and they said, “Okay.” I said, “Oh my god.” I thought, “I’m going to keep going.”
“Cat Art Show Los Angeles” will be on view at 101/Exhibit, 6205 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles from January 25 – February 2, 2014.