Wolf-Günter Thiel: Thomas Rentmeister
Rewiew on the occasion of the exhibition “Thomas Rentmeister. welcome”, Galerie Otto Schweins, Cologne, 09.11. – 09.12.1995; in Flash Art, No. 188, May–June 1996, p.118f., translated from German by Shaun Whiteside.
At his show in Otto Schweins’ new spaces, Thomas Rentmeister gives a first airing to works from different phases of his career. This overview reveals a formal and aesthetic development, while at the same time revealing what it is that all the works have in common. They all share non-literary, concrete intent, which prevails even when Rentmeister installs a man-size brown container, closed on all sides, or a modified blue motorway sign. Even if a form of pseudo-life is breathed into the container through a ventilator, and the motorway sign refers to a type actually in use, there is an associative background that corresponds to the everyday use of the objects, but says nothing about the works on show in the context of the “White Cube”. The work is freed from everyday codifications, and its formal and aesthetic quality is laid bare.
Rentmeister goes one step further in his panel paintings, brand-new lorry tarpaulins framed on stretchers. These tarpaulins have a monochrome coloration which, if the viewer has no background knowledge, conveys no associations with their original context. They are in the tradition of minimal and color-field painting of Donald Judd, and match the aesthetic paradigms of Gerhard Merz. As paintings they are elegant, but do not refer to other literary contexts.
The most recent works on display consist of polyester sculptures that look like “artificial biomorphs”, which have been turned into mirrored “bulbs” by being polished in various ways. With a particular form of mirroring they thematize their surroundings and the viewer, distorting their images as in a fairground hall of mirrors. These floor sculptures, made in various sizes, have a monolithic appearance, a smoothness and coldness that sometimes seems interrupted by their cream-colored surfaces. They do not convey any relevant background of associations, and extreme comparisons, although they are often proposed, are doomed to appear absurd. They are what they are, and refer only to an art-inherent discourse.
© Wolf-Günter Thiel (1996)