BY Sarah E. James in Reviews | 06 SEP 11

Four Artists Present Four Works in the Second Installment of 4x4

Harry Pye selects interesting but under-exposed artists to take part in an exhibition series at L-13

BY Sarah E. James in Reviews | 06 SEP 11

This was the long-awaited, perhaps even unexpected, second part of an exhibition series that Harry Pye initiated four years ago. The idea behind it: to get the work of four interesting, but under-exposed artists exhibited in a group show where the ego or over-thought intentions of the curator wouldn’t detract from the work on display. In this installment, put on in L-13 – a ‘gentleman’s workshop’ more than a gallery, as founder Steve Lowe insists – the artists were Tom Pounder, Emma Coleman, Edward Todd and Aleksandra Wojcik. In a further neat conceptual nod, the newspaper-style catalogue accompanying the show – a special edition of Pye’s The Rebel ( – included four short texts (each of 444 words) on each artist, each written – some straight-forward criticism, others more fictive stream-of-conscious style – by four writers: Georgia Anderson, boyleANDshaw, Alex Chappel and Sarah Thacker. A simple but effective experiment in quadrigeminal display and discourse.

Aleksandra Wojcik, Untitled, 2011. Courtesy: the artist

Did it work? The exhibition had a definite energy, and the combination of writings – some seriously on the money – provided a really effective and tactile textual compliment, instead of the normal thoughtless press release. There wasn’t really anything that obviously united the pieces on display. Coleman produced four surreal Art Cushions (2011) – pasty pink body parts with eyes and orifices. They riff fairly obviously on the textile part-objects of Eva Hesse or Louise Bourgeois, but there is a strange fragility or even amateurism to them. They don’t really work – the acrylic paint seems flakey, the shapes not quite right – but maybe that’s the point. They have an awkward sadness that is vulnerable before it is kitsch. In total contrast, Wojcik’s four untitled photographs – of nighttime construction sites with space-age coloured skies and theatrical lighting – have a sci-fi slickness. Post-Düsseldorf School, but much more interesting, a kind of moving tribute to the machine in a post-industrial age. And, as Anderson notes in her excellent text, particularly resonant because of the gender politics. These are places never normally associated with the feminine, but Wojcik’s nocturnal meditations cleverly make them so.

Edward Todd, Paralytic Feedback, 2011. Courtesy: the artist

The remaining two artists seem to have more in common, an appealing cynicism and an aesthetically pleasing sense of humour. Todd presents a real mixture: an abstract geometric painting in greys, its title, Paralytic Feedback (2011), defying its status as dry homage, and a cheeky cartoon-style deconstruction of a Turner painting with rabbits and ancient idyll. The other two pieces are small mixed-media constructions, New Fantasy Landscape (2011) is exactly that, like a small shrine with a pixilated scene and a tiny fluffy-tailed plasticine dragon a top. But the stand-out work is Pounder’s. His four abstract paintings defy normal conventions or readings. They have a clarity of intent and a real pulse. Gulf War I and II (both 2010) force the issue of how to deal with a political subject via the abstract medium – all lively smudges of purple, blue, orange and grey – and ask how one can ever test the authenticity or authority of such an experiment.

Tom Pounder, Balenciaga Bullseye Liquidity Annunciation, 2011. Courtesy: the artist

Pounder’s work intervenes in the digital detritus of our internet age, giving the corporate, pornographic flatlands a kind of ‘cultural colonoscopy’, and his other two paintings Balenciaga Bullseye Liquidity Annunciation and Ponzi Scheme Chuckles Carrying The Cross (both 2011) are more suggestive of these nifty and knowing interventions. They have a cleaner, more geometric look, but they also ask hardcore questions about painterly authenticity and sincerity whilst they slyly kick it in the balls.

Sarah E. James is an art historian and writer based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Her next book Paper Revolutions: An Invisible Avant-Garde, is forthcoming from the MIT Press.