Ikon's latest pair of exhibitions juxtaposes the work of two German printmakers who are separated by a century but united by Leipzig.
Max Klinger is one of those artists who, from a British point of view at least, always seems to have lurked somewhere just off-stage in terms of the main drama of art history.
Rooted in the Symbolist movement, he is a startlingly ambivalent figure whose literally and metaphorically dark imagery seems on the one hand to represent a pedantic late 19th century realism, but on the other deals with a psychological underworld that anticipates Surrealism, as well as a frank eroticism more characteristic of the later 20th century.
Take his extraordinary series A Glove (1881), in which fetishism is explored through fantastic dreamlike images which are virtually full-blown Surrealism half a century before the event.
In a strip-cartoon-like narrative, a man (Klinger himself?) picks up a glove dropped by a woman at a skating rink. In a series of bizarre extrapolations this corpse-like item becomes the object of erotic obsession, placed on a shrine on a seashore washed with petals, abducted by a pterodactyl, rescued from stormy seas.
Nothing else of Klinger's has quite this dimension of reckless fantasy. Series like A Life trace the rise and fall of individuals in the tradition of Victorian or Hogarthian moralities.
In Dramas a series of lurid tragedies (in one a husband has just shot his wife's lover from an upstairs window, in another the body of a drowned child has been laid out on a landing stage) are depicted in the context of garden foliage or dockside architecture rendered in smothering detail.
The effect is of compelling strangeness which can sometimes reach such a pitch as to be unforgettable, as in the plate Plague, from the series On Death, Part II, where a nun in a hospital ward waves a crucifix to repel the plagueembodying crows which have flown in through the curtain-billowing windows.
Astonishingly, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is one of the few British museums to own a complete set of these prints. Part of it is on display there to complement the Ikon show. One plate from the series, Philosopher, also features in a related display of German graphic work at the Barber Institute.
Confirming Leipzig's continuing vitality as a centre for printmaking, Christiane Baumgartner combines the ancient German tradition of woodcut-printing with contemporary imagery.
Working from photographs and video (she also shows a video installation), she handcarves these images in the time-honoured fashion. As a result there is a paradoxical tension between the slowness of the medium and the speed of the image, some of which, as in the series Fahrt II , are taken from a speeding car.
Others show lights or traffic on the autobahn or, in the immense Transall, cargo planes on the ground.
While their large scale marks Baumgartner's prints off from historic woodcuts, their restriction to black and white retains a connection with them.
On the other hand, combined with their strict linear make-up this also makes them evocative of fuzzy black-and-white television. This seems to me to be their achilles' heel, because fuzzy black-and-white television isn't particularly interesting to watch.
So while there may be some conceptual niceties to the just-about legibility of those blurry white verticles which are in fact a wind farm glimpsed at speed (recalling Richard Hamilton's experiments with blown-up photographs in the 1960s), it's not long before you want to move on and look at something else.
* Until September 18 (Tue-Sat 11am-6pm; admission free).