View of “Robert Rauschenberg: Cardboards and Related Pieces,” 2007, Menil Collection, Houston. Center: Robert Rauschenberg, Castelli/Small Turtle Bowl (Cardboard), 1971. Photo: Paul Hester.

Robert Rauschenberg

The Menil Collection

BORIS KARLOFF IN THE MUMMY. Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Whether inspired by such luminous Hollywood hieroglyphs or (according to Menil director Josef Helfenstein) by a book given to him by Marian B. Javits, wife of the New York senator, Robert Rauschenberg’s “Early Egyptians,” 1973–74, the series ending his cardboard-related works, all quietly glimmer in a gaudy twilight, due to Day-Glo pigment painted on their backsides in orange, yellow, pink, green, violet; situated near the edges of a room, as they were last spring in the Menil Collection’s “Robert Rauschenberg: Cardboards and Related Pieces,” the sculptures wallflower and radiate. Such artificial sunsets bare sculpture’s solar anus (which many still don’t know what to do with), complicating rote frontality with liminal crepuscular space. Oscar Wilde observed that actual sunsets only flaunt the worst faults, exaggerated and

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