Tom Wesselmann's nudes have always flirted with the viewer, playing multiple versions of Peek-A-Boo. They reveal themselves physically to us, often with a playful, come-hither smile and provide a glimpse of their languorous bodies or erotic body parts. Yet Wesselmann's women rarely return our gaze, indeed they rarely even make eye-contact, and as a result they reveal nothing of their identity. Like peep-show beauties, they remain tantalizingly unattainable.
Wesselmann's "Drop Out" works, as he refers to this series, play a different game with the viewer. The term "Drop Out" literally references a process of removing or cutting out, in this case, a portion of the figure's form. In Bedroom Painting #49, the woman's breast is partially cut out and defined instead by negative space. The subject is presented on a grand scale, in profile, against a bedroom window, bedside lamp and flower. The negative space creates a silhouette of the woman's form to give the illusion of a body, yet Wesselmann has only painted a nipple and a few strands of blonde hair.
"Although the shape of the canvas is pre-determined at the very beginning of the creative process, the pictures give the impression that the body contours have been cut out at some later point. The oversized body parts seem robbed of their connotative significance, their symbolic meaning, as if they had been created exclusively for the sake of the perspective-bound illusion of a 'see-through' effect" (T. Buchsteiner and O. Letze, eds., Tom Wesselmann, Ostfildern, 1996, p. 37).
By fragmenting the female form in this manner, Wesselmann diminishes the potential for sexual intimacy or erotic associations. Instead the viewer plays Peek-A-Boo with the artist himself, and his revelatory process of reinventing the nude through positive and negative space.