Smell a Rat

The endearingly dank Citygroup gallery suits the raffish contents of Rodents Restore America just fine. Printouts of emails stuck to a wall with tacks or set within picture frames attest to the extensive correspondence between artists Peter Fend and Ryan Foerster and author Alice Outwater, whose 1996 study Water: A Natural History informs the show’s climate-pilled script. (A 2008 edition of the book is suspended from the ceiling.) The thematic coheres in moments, for instance a sculpture consisting of a fish tank and a floating Styrofoam model of the American continents. Inspecting the washed-out canvases on display, I admit to having lost the thread: One had a demonic Cookie Monster plushy hanging from its side, while a semimummified rat corpse, soaked in glue, was affixed to another. “If you get close enough, it smells,” Fend remarked at the opening.

Outwater’s work argues that the eradication of beavers, prairie dogs, and bison has led to the deterioration of US waterways. Fend and Foerster imagine introducing New York–native Rattus norvegicus into these dilapidat…

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