Preparedness, 1968 by Roy Lichtenstein

Lichtenstein's modern series was a departure from the familiar subject matter of the comic strip and landscape paintings. The artist chose a subject, the Art Deco architecture and design of the 1920s and 1930s, which was not terribly popular when he began to work with it. (It has become all the rage since.) In his Deco paintings and sculptures he embraced the forms and the ambience of the period: the elaborate theater marquees and stepped facades of buildings in and around Rockefeller Center, the curved brass banisters, ornate carpets, and plush velour stanchion signs in Radio City Music Hall, the overstuffed furniture, automobile grills, and jewelry - the repetitive shapes and geometric patterns. Preparedness expresses the sentiment of the 1930s and is, as he has indicated, a call to action, a conspicuous attempt to recover the look of the period and its socio-political message. Lichtenstein notes that he wanted the painting to be a loaded statement about the innocent optimism of the 1930s, such as those that could be found in WPA murals.

Lichtenstein cultivated imagery from the history of art while continuing to use the conventions of comics and advertisements. In Preparedness (1968) he used the Benday-dot technique to make a wall-size painting (10 feet high by 18 feet wide) that suggests the work of Fernand Léger and the WPA artists of the 1930s, who painted monumental murals, readable at a distance, on themes of workers and everyday life. Lichtenstein followed this practice to an ironic and somewhat subversive end. Painted during a year when public opinion on the Vietnam War shifted dramatically, Lichtenstein's massive depiction of machinery and soldiers probes the conventions of selling the promises of the military-industrial complex, while quietly alluding to the naive optimism underlying a call to arms.