Cats, Cats, Cats

An Interview with Kelly Monico on her Between Us Installation

Kelly Monico, Alley Cats, 2018 (Photo by Third Dune Productions)
Black Cube: Tell us about your site-specific installation Alley Cats.

Kelly Monico: Alleys are often thought of as being off limits and, at times, scary. I was drawn to the idea of activating an alley with 300 ridiculously kitschy kittens and cats. When we think of alley cats, we tend to think of menacing feral cats hiding in the crevices of buildings. I was interested in inverting that experience by placing domestic, disease-free house cats (albeit, not alive so still slightly eerie) throughout the alley. These cats aren’t your typical alley cats. People will want to love, cuddle, and take these cats home with them. But please don’t – they need to live in the alley for at least a year.

BC: What is the significance of cats?

KM: 1/3 of Americans live with at least one cat. They are hilarious creatures who can do crazy acrobatic Cirque du Soleil maneuvers. Thanks to YouTube, we know that cats are downright daring, smart, and resilient animals. Cats can open doors, speak in full sentences, do back flips, and dial 911. It seems obvious why “cat fails” rule the internet (which, by the way, has led to a giant boost in cat adoptions).

Although this may come as shock, there are just as many people who truly dislike cats (Gasp)! Unlike dogs, cats don’t care about pleasing humans. Cats are hard to understand; they are aloof and independent creatures. I like to think that Alley Cats offers dog lovers a new lens to observe and accept these mysterious felines.

Kelly Monico, Alley Cats, 2018 (Photo by Third Dune Productions)
BC: How do you hope people will respond to the artwork? 

KM: The cats are installed throughout the alley behind and around Larimer Square. I’ve created three main cat colonies and sprinkled kittens throughout to connect each community. There is an Easter egg element to how the cats are installed; it’s unexpected, and the closer you look the more cats you’ll find. It’s been entertaining to hear responses from people walking through the alley during install—lots of observing, cheering, and asking questions. Some people who work in Larimer Square are taking their lunch breaks in the alley to watch us install the cats because, well, it makes them happy. I see this as a good thing, an alternative pet therapy—a stroll through the alley can reduce blood pressure, boost mood levels, and make one feel less lonely.

What I really enjoy about this project is that cats are familiar creatures and most of us have interacted with a cat at some point in our life. That makes this art installation, Alley Cats, accessible to most people, regardless of a person’s experience of looking at art.

Kelly Monico, Alley Cats, 2018 (Photo by Third Dune Productions)
BC: Was producing an installation in an alleyway unknown territory for you? Can you describe the experience?

KM: This is definitely new territory. I’ve never worked with ready-mades before and I enjoyed the challenge of the quick turnaround from concept to install. These 300 cats lived in my studio for a month, so I began to form my own quasi strange relationship with them, including naming some of them (e.g. Gonzo, Tanqueray, Curlie-Q, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Nicks). It made installing each cat somewhat personal. It was important to me to find a good home for them, surrounded by friends, and yet somewhat sheltered from dangerous elements.

BC: Does this artwork relate to your art practice as a whole?

KM: Most of my work explores various forms of pattern and I am a follower of the gestalt principle. I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and this concept is reflected in the majority of my work. In Alley Cats, each cat interacts with the environment and each other to create a larger community. These cats need each other to survive.

Kelly Monico (Photo by Melody Ward)
BC: Name the most memorable exhibition that you’ve attended.

KM: dOCUMENTA (13)

BC: Aside from the visual arts, what motivates your practice?

KM: Human behavior, foreign lands, and being responsible for a miniature human.

BC: What do you consider to be your most successful work?

KM: My next project.



Kelly Monico's Alley Cats is a part of Between Us: The Downtown Denver Alleyways Project—funded and produced by the Downtown Denver Partnership and the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District—is aimed at bringing additional public art to Downtown Denver. The goal is to surprise, delight, and inspire those who experience the alleyways. Curated by Black Cube, with support from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation.