Wesselman’s interest in the interplay of positive and negative shapes dates from the collages he was making in the early 60s in which there was a specific aesthetic goal which Wesselman describes as follows:
The ideal was competition rather than harmony - all parts of the painting competed throughout the painting, in many ways, in order to generate excitement and demand attention. One of the main tools besides colour was the use of positive and negative shapes or space. This is why [my] earliest nudes are often very curvy - to set up a strong positive - negative relationship between the positive shape - the body - and adjacent negative areas, so that both the adjacent area and the nude could break free and advance. If all positive and negative areas became as strong as possible, there would be no negative areas: the image could become one strong positive shape. What counted was that one final shape.