Artwork Detail

Bedroom Painting #2
American, 1931–2004
Oil on canvas
48 1/2 x 83 1/2 x 2 5/8 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 1968
WU 4382
© Tom Wesselmann / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
American Pop artist Tom Wesselmann is known for his many paintings, collages, and assemblages depicting the female nude. In this painting, the artist severely fragments the female form, representing only a pair of red lips and a bare breast together with other everyday objects. Slyly combining references to various art-historical tropes (the reclining female nude, the still life), Wesselmann infuses them with the patina of consumer culture. The body parts are rendered as if they were material goods equivalent—in size and treatment—to the cigarette, orange, and rose. With the inclusion of visible suntan lines, the figure reads as naked (pornographic) rather than nude (art historical). This hyper-sexualized coding of the female body as well as the work’s overall scale and cool aesthetic directly recall the commercial techniques of billboard advertisements, which often equate lust with the commodity. Wesselmann’s painting can be understood as an ambiguous commentary, neither overtly critical nor celebratory, of the larger social context of postwar America in which notions of individuality are increasingly shaped by mass consumer culture. [Permanent collection label, 2017]