Katharina Fritsch

Article excerpt

Nobody, it seems, likes rats. Mice are cute; rats, just dirty. Stuart Little is a mouse; Templeton, a rat. In the urban cesspool, rats surpass cockroaches as pestilential, borderline-scary nuisances. (Roaches, after all, are easy to kill.) When a rat scurries past me on the detritus-strewn lanes of Manhattan's Lower East Side, I have to steel myself not to jump.

Maybe Katharina Fritsch, alone, really likes rats. She's a rodentiaphile teuton. Given the scale and freak glamour of her DIA installation, Rattenkonig (Rat king, 1993), she tries hard to make the most of them as icons. We are told that in lore and various anecdotal accounts, the rat-king is a group of rats inextricably and inexplicably bound together through the knotting of their tails. Sightings of the rat-king in Northern Europe since the Renaissance have been taken as evil portents.

Fritsch continues to exploit serialism and tamper with scale. Issues of kitsch and mass-production, which prevailed in her yellow Lourdes Madonna souvenirs and cutesy, arched-backed kitty cats recede in Rattenkonig. Minimalist, Conceptual, and Pop strategies remain her formal and presentational referents. Ignoring the rat as "theme," Fritsch's installation perspicuously foregrounds the interpenetration of these '60s-derived tendencies. …

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