Thomas Rentmeister was born in 1964, in Reken, Westphalia. From 1987 to 1993, he studied at the Art Academy Düsseldorf, first as a student of Günther Uecker and later as a »master student« of Alfonso Hüppi. Numerous stipends (1988/89 Philip-Morris; 1996 Kunstfonds e.V., Bonn; 1999 Kunststiftung Erich Hause, Rottweil) led to extended stays at other art institutes, for example, in Berlin. In 1999, Rentmeister taught at the Kunsthochschule Kassel; from 2002 to 2004, he was visiting professor at the Universität der Künste in Berlin, and in 2005/06 he taught at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee.
In his œuvre, Rentmeister has almost exclusively concentrated on sculpture. With his mostly untitled works, he again and again probed sculpture’s richly varied material spectrum, its spatial orientation, its connotations of a »thing.« In the 1980s, he created early, small-format material assemblages, everyday objects such as clothespins, cigarettes, and nails whose crafted shapes he examined as to their construction and statics. First serial structures emerged whose objective, standardized frames of presentation he kept focusing on in the years to follow. Starting in 1985, Rentmeister presented metal shelves on which he placed packages of orange juice on fresh grass. In the serial arrangement of coffee cups, filled with coffee and condensed milk which he did in the same year, a similar irony vis à vis minimalist attitudes started to show. In many projects and presentations, Rentmeister continued his defamiliarizing of everyday objects to create seemingly meaningful and mysterious things which then emerged as absurdly comical. With the polyester sculptures which he started producing in 1990, Rentmeister made use of a new, richly varied conjuncture of aesthetic experience and connotations of a »thing.« He produced large-format bubble-like, yet still heavy plastic structures that are brightly polished and are placed on the floor. They seem to be changeable, positioned according to the laws of gravity, flowing into seemingly strange body shapes – apparently immersed, taking up space and at the same peacefully colossal.
If the polyester sculptures already provided numerous associations with edible, licked, melting sweets, if they served sensual desires and lusts, Rentmeister even went a step further with his chocolate and refrigerator works. He used food and body cream as material for his sculptures and also included smells and their potential to trigger memories. In 1999, for example, he created a wall shelf covered with plastically shaped nut nougat cream. It defamiliarizes plastic Modelé through associations with breakfast culture. In a 2001 exhibition at the Kölnische Kunstverein (Cologne Art Society), Rentmeister then left the nut nougat cream to its inherent processes of slow shape-shifting by pouring the inert mass from 100 buckets onto the floor of the exhibition room. With his arrangement of refrigerators into cubic formations, it only seemed as if Rentmeister had returned to his earlier object-like minimalist art (White Ware, 2002). The formation of 20 refrigerators is covered with a coarsely applied, pasty layer of Penatencreme (baby cream) whose penetrating smell fills the exhibition room: »The smell of Penatencreme – in the collective memory inextricably connected to the smell of baby crap which is itself a mixture of fragrance and stink – is confronted with another well-known category of smell: the somewhat musty smell of refrigerators. And the confrontation is a hierarchical one« (Rentmeister, Interview with Ellen Seifermann, in: Ausst.-Kat. Nürnberg 2004). Further works emerged, done with rectangular blocks of paper tissue packages, again spread with Penatencreme.
In his works, Rentmeister breaks the serial strictness of stacked cubic objects from middle-class homes by covering them with gestural painting that serves as comment. At the same time, by using everyday brand products, he appeals to the museum visitors’ experiences of early childhood that have remained uncommented. He thus creates intimate and at the same time intrusive emotional impressions that run through yet also counteract the aesthetic experience. With a certain logical consistency, Rentmeister described his sculptures as a mixture of Andy Warhol’s Pop Art and Carl Andre’s minimal sculpture and invented the term »Minimalpop.«
Since the late 1980s, Rentmeister’s works have been shown at numerous solo and group exhibitions in galleries and exhibition halls, for example in Graz and Rotterdam (2005), in Cologne (2003), in Münster and Stuttgart (1997), and in Mönchengladbach (1995).
Thomas Rentmeister lives and works in Berlin.
Thomas Rentmeister, Zwischenlandung: Ausst.-Kat. Kunsthalle Nürnberg, hg. v. E. Seifermann, Ostfildern-Ruit 2004
Thomas Rentmeister, brown: Ausst.-Kat. Kölnischer Kunstverein, hg. v. U. Kittelmann, Ostfildern-Ruit 2002
Thomas Rentmeister: Ausst.-Kat. Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach 1995