Milena Jovicevic Popovic demands more of the viewer than a casual glance or the passive attention involved in viewing a more narrative-based painting. The artist, raised in Montenegro and schooled in France, gives the viewer fragments to consider—a series of crude geometric shapes, the silhouette of a shitting dog, dead cigarettes ritually piled in an ashtray—
and these fragments register with the viewer in the same way that a stick figure wrapped in a triangle communicates “woman.” As a result, a lazy patron is likely to view a familiar symbol or sign in Milena’s work and to respond with the same casual indifference that they would in encountering the object during a daily routine. But, these appropriated icons are far more
delicate and intricate; the symbolic figures protrude prominently from the canvas, signifying both our adherence and natural response to them (we react to them like a plant towards light) as well as our essential alienation from ourselves in the context of such a vague and sterile language. In other words, a stop sign says so much and means so little. Milena simplifies form and color, similar to the icons that direct city streets and airports, in order to capture the loss of any discernable narrative. This series of moments or vignettes that compose everyday
individual experience through either a language of signs or symbols is at once dehumanizing and empowering. It is dehumanizing as our attention and actions are guided by advertisements, notices and instruction, which would suggest a total loss of autonomy. At the same time, Milena redefines the fleeting reality of human interaction and momentary experience. In her series of cigarettes and ashtrays, she illustrates a precise and potent
moment in time that, like Sarraute’s writing, defies the watering down of psychological classification or petty emotional description. She tells a story through the filter of man’s most common tendencies of response and reaction. These tendencies are the essential elements of Milena’s raw and immediate art.
NY Arts Magazine, may-june 2007.