Holger Kube Ventura: Thomas Rentmeister
Catalogue essay from the exhibition “Über die Metapher des Wachstums / On the Metaphor of Growth”, Frankfurter Kunstverein, 26.05 – 31.07.2011; in Über die Metapher des Wachstums / On the Metaphor of Growth, (cat.) Kunstverein Hannover, Kunsthaus Baselland and Frankfurter Kunstverein, Hannover / Muttenz / Frankfurt 2011, German p. 90, English p. 90f.
The sculptures of Thomas Rentmeister (born in 1964, lives in Berlin) can for the most part be grasped three-dimensionally, but they are simultaneously characterized by a broad range of possibilities to experience them synaesthetically. In many of his pieces, Rentmeister deals with the contrast between the knowledge of the properties and functions of materials and objects, on the one hand, and the perception of their form, on the other: When Rentmeister composes objects and surfaces on the gallery floor out of nut chocolate cream or potato chips, when he stacks refrigerators to form a square block and, for formal reasons, fills in the gaps between the devices with skin cream, or when he combines such variously connoted products such as sugar, washing powder, polystyrene panels, underwear, and tissues based on their common color (they are all white!) to form a floor sculpture, then the content and shape of the compounded elements clash and create exciting metaphors for the viewer. The artist precisely calculates individual experiences and memories of certain things that viewers of his sculptures bear in mind when visiting the exhibition. The minimalism of his works is, as Ursula Panhans-Bühler has pointed out, “dirty.”
In the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Thomas Rentmeister exhibits a sculpture consisting of around 1,000 pounds of coffee. The standard ground product was dumped on the floor so that the heap is at first reminiscent of a pile of sand on a construction site. Viewed from a distance, it looks like a mountain landscape or a dreary island protruding from the gallery floor. A red light bulb hanging close above a hollow in the heap – or a valley in the mountain landscape – reminds one of both the image of a romantic sunset and the heat radiation of a breeding or cultivation station: It appears as if plants or insects were to grow, thrive and reproduce themselves here. The sculpture emanates a flagrance, or smell, and thus reclaims a space extending beyond its material borders.
When Rentmeister uses foodstuffs as material for his artworks, they evoke personal memories – of their daily use, for instance – but also collective knowledge: Like almost no other consumer good, coffee (or the price for a 500-gram package) serves as a gauge of the cost of living and is a symbol of economic globalization. This pile could also be read as the visualization of an abstract statistical value on coffee consumption á la “on average, each year every German drinks...”. The ambiguity of Rentmeister’s sculpture is comparable to classical picture puzzles that vacillate between different levels of meaning. Of course, the artist is also interested in the physical and sculptural features of the utilized material. Ground coffee consists of hard yet relatively light globules that for this reason fall in a manner less flowing than sugar, for example, and when poured it creates a different tension between material and the gaps in between: One cannot create high mountains with coffee, and when taking a closer look, the pile actually reminds one more of a dune – which in turn triggers new associations.
In a second work displayed in the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Rentmeister uses an obvious proof of the human body’s permanent growth – clippings of toenails and fingernails – to cite an icon of the artistic examination of infinity: The regular, vertical composition of small fingernail crescents with larger toe-nail crescents establishes a direct reference to Barnett Newman’s famous “Stripes.” This work by Thomas Rentmeister is also a metaphor of growth
© Holger Kube Ventura