Benjamin Entner’s ‘Ego Sum’ at CAC puts an inflatable spin on ancient Rome

Benjamin Entner’s Ego Sum at the CAC.
Photo: Jo Russ

The Details

Ego Sum
Through March 2; Wednesday-Saturday, 2-7 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Contemporary Arts Center, 382-3886

There’s a big inflatable naked guy filling out the Contemporary Arts Center. He’s 42 feet long and squeezed horizontally into the main gallery, lodged behind a supportive floor-to-ceiling pole.

The balloon-like self-portrait of the man wearing only socks is Benjamin Entner’s “Colossus.” Its mammoth size and materials counter the joke that sculpture is something you bump into while stepping back to look at a painting—not just because “Colossus” is a hybrid of two- and three-dimensional art, but also because there’s no stepping back from this drawing on fabric inflated by a bathroom fan. Space won’t allow it, and the calculated mess of scribbled marks used to create the drawing invites closer examination.

Playful as they are, “Colossus” and the other works in Ego Sum, created by New York’s Entner to “mimic the colossal statues of ancient Rome,” weren’t actually intended as a direct commentary on impermanence in contemporary art or anything, really, along those lines.

Entner, who lived in Florence, Italy, says the works are his explorations of boundaries and interplay between sculpture and two-dimensional art. More notable is that Entner’s aim is to make art more accessible by removing the “stigma” that “high art is for a certain class with a certain education.”

And then there’s his sense of humor. In grad school he built a one-man Trojan horse and placed it outside his professors’ homes. He once threw himself into his work, literally, by jumping off a roof into his sculpture made of boxes … while wearing a bunny costume. Ego Sum, “I am,” is about having fun with narcissism. Additionally, “Colossus” was previously titled, “Self Portrait on a Cold Day.”

And there’s more of that in Ego Sum. For “Hermes and the Infant Dionysus,” (10 by 3.5 by 5 feet), Entner’s own mini-me in boxers plays the part of Dionysus. Rather than a fig leaf covering its private parts, Entner’s “Apoxyomenos” incorporates a strategically placed potted plant. Entner draws the works on nylon fabric, creating a front and back that is sewn together for a three-dimensional experience worth exploring.

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