Study for Reflections of Soda Fountain hints at a comic book-inspired narrative, and yet leaves much to the viewer's imagination. In the present work, we see a woman sitting at a soda fountain wearing glamorous white gloves, demurely playing with one of two drinking straws in her tall glass of soda. We cannot see her face, but we might imagine that she is engaged in conversation, and that the second straw in the glass perhaps belongs to an unseen companion.
Lichtenstein's composition splices the figure with a series of reflections, a theme that fascinated the artist throughout his career. From 1969 to 1971 he produced a series of works based on images of mirrors in retail catalogs and newspaper advertisements. In an interview with Michael Kimmelman Lichtenstein said, "Mirrors are flat objects that have surfaces you can't easily see since they're always reflecting what's around them. There's no simple way to draw a mirror, so cartoonists invented dashed or diagonal lines to signify 'mirror'. Now, you see those lines and you know it means 'mirror' even though there are obviously no such lines in reality. If you put horizontal, instead of diagonal lines across the same object, it wouldn't say 'mirror'. It's a convention that we unconsciously accept" (R. Lichtenstein quoted in M. Kimmelman, "Roy Lichtenstein at the Met," Portraits, Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, The Louvre and elsewhere, New York Times, 31 March 1995, p. C1).
Between 1988 and 1990 Lichtenstein made a series of works in which he used themes from earlier work, such as the brushstroke or an interior, together with the reflection motif. In Study for Reflections on Soda Fountain, Lichtenstein has integrated images from his original comic strip appropriations with his system of codes for mirrors. The subject matter reflects the innocence and naiveté of American life during the 50s that so much of Lichtenstein's early work portrays and also the reflections that he used repeatedly in the last three decades of his career. The work is a complex collage that the artist created as the maquette for a silkscreen which was published the following year. The collage is a fascinating example of Lichtenstein's working method and intricate compositional technique. Lichtenstein layers pre-printed, patterned paper with hand-painted paper between his hard-edged line drawings to create an interior scene that is at once realistic and flattened. His collage technique echoes the duality that is inherent within his paintings; apparently naive but actually highly sophisticated. Lichtenstein's calculated adaptations of cartoon images and America's nostalgia for the past are a reminder that the simple surface of things does not necessarily correspond to or "reflect" a complex reality.