Executed in 1966, Roy Lichtenstein’s As I Opened Fire is a spectacular printed triptych compiled out of three offset lithographs. The work pays tribute to the mass-produced perfection of its commercial source material. At the same time, As I Opened Fire also functions as a reaction against the pretensions of art history.
As I Opened Fire showcases three conjoined images that together constitute a coherent narrative. The story is reinforced by the added textual elements, announcing a fictitious soldier’s inner monologue. The print employs Lichtenstein’s striking formal vocabulary, making this work a typical example of Pop Art. The artist’s combination of vivid primary colours, harsh black outlines, and carefully plotted Ben Day dots mimic the appeal of cartoon imagery.
Similar to Lichtenstein’s explosive Whaam!, As I Opened Fire is a nod to the artist’s own years in the army. Lichtenstein refines and enlarges his shapes to fit a fine art context, obscuring the border between different modes and hierarchies of representation.
As I Opened Fire responds to idealised creative conventions by erasing the artist's hand. Instead, the work presents a composition that is as precise and calculated as a mechanical reproduction. Ultimately, Lichtenstein’s print criticises the futility of warfare, while also redefining the visual conventions of post-war American art.