The present drawing is a study for a sculpture of the same name, which Rosenquist completed in 1972. "Shelf Life is a metaphor," Rosenquist says. "It's about trying new things. Paint gets stale on the shelf; so do ideas and plans. It was an elaborate joke. You could only get paint on this canvas by opening and closing the door" (J. Rosenquist quoted in James Rosenquist, exh. cat., Denver Art Museum, 1985, p. 53).