Mike Linskie and Lucia Love at Dark Zone

Raised a chronically anxious Catholic, for me the macabre has always lain somewhere between a ‘grey area’ and a ‘sore spot’. I remember in one fleeting moment my mum telling me in no certain terms that she thought skull iconography was distasteful and bad energy, and it has never strayed from my peripheral memory since, particularly re-surfacing when I noticed someone I was newly dating had a decorated skull tattoo. Let’s not enter the terrain of Halloween, which was always a ‘no-no’ in my childhood, a principle that has slinked into my adult consciousness. Removing ideas of a sexy nurse or cat, I dread the thought of attracting my greatest fears by dressing as them. Besides, there isn’t really appropriate attire to depict a stroke or a heart attack…

Installation view: Mike Linskie and Lucia Love, Magic Passed Life, Dark Zone, New Jersey. 

Dark Zone, located in New Jersey, is a fascinating combination of the spooky and the domestic setting, as it’s an exhibition space in the basement of the curator-director’s childhood home, prior to their parents selling it. I have a real love for not “alternative art spaces”, as that sounds a little buzz-wordy, but spaces with a boldly authentic character, that perhaps you wouldn’t associate with art exhibiting. So  it is with this that the documentation of Mike Linskie and Lucia Love’s work in this aesthetically eerie location is a bit of a thrill.

Installation view: Lucia Love, Leave Britney Alone, 2020. Oil on panel, 45.7cm x 61cm. 

The exhibition, ‘Magic Passed Life’, sprawls across several rooms in the basement, some of which are clearly still in some level of use, with others more erring on the desolate and abandoned. To me this is the absolute ideal exhibition space; it tells a story of its own, whilst its ultimately pared-back nature does not overshadow the artwork. Instead, having such a unique environment allows the curator can really shape an exhibition programme that not only sparks conversation but is a fully individual experience. In my own nascent stage of a curatorial practice, I have been experimenting with placing artworks in unexpected environments, such as small sculptures photographed in woodlands, but seeing paintings held against cardboard boxes and hanging from halfway down a staircase is chaotic, it’s a bit nasty, it’s real. White cube galleries have their place, but quite literally whitewashing and neutralising physical spaces to the point that they can be anywhere in the world (see: homogenous globalisation) due to their indiscernibility is a very dull move.

Lucia Love, whose work I haven’t encountered before, fuses a palatable dark subject matter with an exquisite skill for painting. One particular work, ‘Leave Britney Alone’, depicts one of the most bizarre viral episodes of recent years, before the days of everything becoming surreal. If we cast our minds back to 2017, the tragic story a baby dolphin dying on the shore of a busy Spanish beach after being passed around for selfies made the news. One surreal moment in time where stupidity presented itself in its rawest form. 'Leave Britney Alone' depicts a similar scene, this time seemingly with a ray instead of a dolphin. The vulnerability, overwhelming human presence and almost farcical scenario are all present and correct; it's a different kind of horror. I love paintings that trigger a memory that you would never really look for, and combining this with a mild and looming sense of fear throughout the show makes for, again, a unique experience, even for a viewer such as myself who is experiencing the show through a screen, from across the Atlantic.

Installation view: Mike Linskie, Self Portrait as a House (or Any space in his mind that was occupied by the thought of me), 2020. Oil and oil stick on canvas, 76.2cm x 101.6cm.

These works, that look like they’ve been transcribed directly from a meme, work perfectly against Mike Linskie’s softer, sweeping paintings depicting comical faces and figures with the same sinister twist that makes them a great pairing with Love's work. ‘Self Portrait as a House (or Any space in his mind that was occupied by the thought of me)’ addresses the isolation and significant change in the psychic experience brought about by lockdowns and social distancing measures. For many of us, all our memories from the past six months to a year will have been made inside the home; I am my home, the four walls of my room play a considerably bigger role in my life than I would ever have anticipated. The expressionless face in Linskie’s piece is certainly relatable too, and in the darkness of the gallery space it resembles something of a haunted house fixture, bringing us back full circle. Coming out of this grim moment in time, I'm looking forward to seeing less polished art and hosting spaces; more benign chaos, some more personal spaces that are re-appropriated and really let us see what individuals can contribute to our perception through artworks and curation in tandem. With the decimation of the high street and office spaces, I imagine there will be more opportunities for this; a small sparkle of light and joy at the end of our very own "Dark Zone".

Installation view: Mike Linskie and Lucia Love, Magic Passed Life, Dark Zone, New Jersey. 

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