Dirk Luckow: Thomas Rentmeister
Rewiew on the occasion of the exhibition “Thomas Rentmeister”, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, 12.02. – 07.05.1995; in ART+TEXT, No. 52, September 1995, p. 93f., translated from German by John Fowler.
In his first museum exhibition, 31year-old Cologne artist Thomas Rentmeister presented a selection of four organic objects, each measuring about one and a half meters across. They looked completely at home in the Mönchengladbach Museum (one of the centers of Minimal and related art in the Rhine-Ruhr region), partly because their physical solidity seemed somewhat anuled in that they literally reflected the walls around them. They were polished to such a degree that their shiny light- and dark-brown and creamy surfaces seemed covered in a wet film.
Reflected fluoro lighting transformed the objects into sort of high-tech chameleons, which fitted in rather effectively with museum architect Hans Hollein’s postmodern style. Moreover, their curved surfaces provided an expanded perspective of the surrounds, warping wall and ceiling patterns into splayed reticulations, which seemed to enclose or shut off the forms. One of them looked like a blown-up condom, and there seemed to be a sexual element in the neighboring lumps of a rather “shitty” color. Despite their hard, hermetically sealed abstract designs, these objects remained soft and flexible, like fluid masses that inched forward in slithering blobs.
The outline of each of these compact forms is shaped like a drop of paint blown across a flat surface. There is also an apparent relationship to the human eye; the black, moist orb of the iris reflects the light it receives from all directions. As the only mirror surface in the human body, the iris shows impressions of the outside world as magnifications or diminutions. It remains untouched by emotions or age. Similarly, the shiny surfaces of Rentmeister’s polyester capsules remain “youthful”, unimpaired by the march of existence. They deny the concept of substance, throwing all questions concerning their content back on the viewer. In this respect, they can be seen as parables of bike helmets, bathroom plumbing and car bodies – all products of style-driven mass consumption.
Rentmeister’s starting point seems to be the desire to transform the average consumer’s indifference to materials, into an interactive sculptural inventiveness. Hence his glistening syntheses of Ange Leccia’s Mercedes Benz designs, Constantin Brancusi’s erotic metal figures, and Hans Arp’s biomorphism, lending an inspired edge to these accepted sculptural conventions. Each profile suggests an individual being. They are reminiscent of space buggies attaching themselves to the ground with suckers; or of chic underground groovers from an entirely different planet. Rentmeister is well aware of these mutant properties, installing his “beings” in public areas like car parks, for photo shoots for publication as editions.
In an earlier installation, two works by the artist seemed closely related: a blue picture looking like a speed sign from a German highway, and an oversize tractor tire in a metal and glass case. In the middle of the sign work was the number “800”, a fanciful speed limit chosen by the artist partly for the rounded forms of its numerals. The symbols are meant to function paradoxically, indicating inertia, movement, and direction. The transformation of time and movement via the medium of modern sculpture is an abiding interest of Rentmeister’s. The question therefore remains: What significance does the artist assign to these objects, and what artistic identity can these seamless polyester surfaces assert for themselves? They are, in any case, in a world of their own.
© Dirk Luckow (1995)