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American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print

February 13 - May 9, 2010

"Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms."

- The Hatch Brothers

 

This sentiment was certainly true in 1879 when brothers Herbert H. and Charles R. Hatch opened Hatch Show Print, a printing shop in Nashville. Their handcrafted posters screamed slogans such as "More Power, More Pep," "So Many Girls You Can't Count Them All," and "Always Clean, Always Good." Now 130 years later, Hatch posters hold their own as a stirring and refreshingly tactile contrast to the digital advertising world. AMOA, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, celebrates this time-honored graphic art tradition.

AMOA assistant curator Andrea Mellard explains, "The distinctive style of Hatch's bold hand-carved images, antique typography, playful taglines, and American subjects is the perfect blending of art, design, and cultural history. Austin has a vibrant poster tradition and the museum is excited to share Hatch's hand-crafted, iconic creations."

 

Contents

American Letterpress features over 100 historical and contemporary posters and over a dozen hand-carved wooden blocks-some on view for the very first time. Whether in posters promoting a Johnny Cash concert or a carnival performance, advertising the rodeo or the Grand Ole Opry, or capturing the modern-day verve of a concert by Coldplay or The Strokes, posters printed by Hatch Show Print capture the heralded traditions of American letterpress printing and graphic art at their very best.


Process

Letterpress refers to the printing process of inking and impressing letters. Generally, this term is used by professional and amateur printers who use metal and wood type to prepare textual documents such as broadsides and posters. Imagery can be included in a letterpress product, but in order to print text and image together, the image is prepared at the same height as the type. Simply put, this is a process where letters are pressed into paper with ink rolled in between. By exhibiting posters and woodblocks together visitors can better understand the letterpress process.

 

History alive today

"Hatch is a survivor. We keep ink on the blocks and dust off their backs," said Jim Sherraden, the exhibition's curator and chief designer at Hatch Show Print. "We're in constant production, and we've survived all the changes in printing technology to become the antithesis of contemporary digital design. I'm thrilled that we can share our story and our art through this exhibition." As part of the exhibition programming, Jim Sherraden will give a slide lecture about Hatch's colorful history and devotion to hands-on letterpress printing in a digital era.

For much of the 20th century, Hatch's vibrant posters served as a leading advertising medium for Southern entertainment-from vaudeville and minstrel shows, to magicians and opera singers, to Negro League baseball games and B-movies. Many of Hatch's most loyal clients were Grand Ole Opry stars. Each Hatch Show Print poster is a unique creation, individually handcrafted and inked onto paper in a painstaking process that dates back to the 15th century. This process, known as letterpress, involves inking hand-carved wood blocks and metal photo plates and type that are then pressed onto paper to form an image.

The shop that produces these colorful posters has long been a downtown Nashville landmark and the guardian of a very special piece of Americana. Now owned and operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Hatch Show Print not only carefully re-strikes some of the original, hand-carved wood blocks to reproduce classic images on the massive, old letterpresses, but also designs and prints over 600 new compositions each year, continuing in the firm's tradition. The Austin Museum of Art commissioned two posters in honor of the exhibition, which will be for sale in the museum store.

 

Selected public programs

Film Screenings
Inspired by Hatch Show Print, a selection of films that explores creativity in advertising, graphic design, and country music. Visit www.amoa.org/hatchfilms for screening details.
Co-sponsored by The Alamo Drafthouse-Ritz and AIGA Austin
 
2010 SXSW Film Poster Show
On view March 12- 14
AMOA-Downtown Community Room, Free
This juried exhibition celebrates how designers distill filmmakers' stories down to images that both inspire and intrigue at a glance.
 
Opening reception Friday, March 12, 4:30-6:30 pm
Fee; Free for AMOA & AIGA Members & SXSW filmmakers
Presented by AIGA Austin
 
Curator's Tour
Saturday, April 3, 3 pm
Join Assistant Curator Andrea Mellard for a gallery walk-through of the current exhibitions.
 
Luke Savisky Performance
Wednesday, April 28, 9 pm
New Works artist brings his film projections to life during the Fusebox Festival. His film montages on unusual projection surfaces in unlikely environments stretch the limits of visual media. Details at www.fuseboxfestival.com
Co-sponsored by the Austin Film Society, the City of Austin, and Fusebox Festival
 
Fusebox Festival HQ at AMOA
April 22- May 2
AMOA-Downtown Community Room, Free
Fusebox is an award-winning hybrid arts festival. Swing by AMOA for daily artist talks, to buy tickets at the box office, browse the artist-curated resource library, and ask for advice about what to see.
 
A Taste of Tradition
Thursday, May 6, 6:30 pm
Join us for a discussion and tasting of Southern food dedicated to preserving tradition inspired by Hatch Show Print. Tickets available at www.amoa.org/tasteoftradition
Co-sponsored by Edible Austin magazine.
 
AMOA for Families
 
Second Saturdays for Families
February 13, March 13, April 10 & May 8, 12-4 pm
Drop in and create!
Fee. Museum member families
 
AMOA at Art City Austin: Family Art Tent
Saturday, April 24 - Sunday, April 25
Cesar Chavez St. at City Hall
Experience the city's largest and longest running outdoor art fair. The event benefits the Museum-so come visit the AMOA Family Art Tent. Details at www.artallianceaustin.org
 
Public Tours
Every Saturday 2 pm
Docent-led highlight tours of the exhibitions
 
Public Programs are free with Museum admission and take place at AMOA-Downtown unless otherwise noted.
Please visit www.amoa.org for more information.

 

Tour and organizer

American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print tours to an additional 13 museums over the next four years.

American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print, an exhibition created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, is supported by America's Jazz Heritage, A Partnership of the Wallace Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service has a Web page with images of prints and a link for downloading the brochure.included in the exhibition. On the page there is also a link to a related video. A separate page has links to two podcasts for the exhibition. The original 2008 Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service news release for the exhibit is below:

New Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Celebrates American Graphic Art Tradition of Hatch Show Print
 
Adverting without posters is like fishing without worms.
- The Hatch Brothers
 
This sentiment was certainly true in 1879 when brothers Herbert H. and Charles R. Hatch opened Hatch Show Print, a printing shop in Nashville, Tenn. Their handcrafted posters screamed slogans such as "More Power, More Pep," "So Many Girls You Can't Count Them All" and "Always Clean, Always Good." Almost 130 years later, Hatch posters hold their own as a stirring and refreshingly tactile contrast to the digital advertising world.
 
The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in partnership with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates this time-honored graphic art tradition. American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print will open at the Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle on Oct. 11, 2008. It will then tour to an additional 13 museums over the next four years. The exhibition is supported by America's Jazz Heritage, A Partnership of the Wallace Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.
 
American Letterpress features 126 historical and contemporary posters and 29 hand-carved wooden blocks-some on view for the very first time. Whether in posters promoting a Johnny Cash concert or a carnival performance; advertising the rodeo or the Grand Ole Opry; or capturing the modern-day verve of a concert by Coldplay or The Strokes, posters printed by Hatch Show Print capture the heralded traditions of American letterpress printing and graphic art at their very best.
 
"Hatch is a survivor. We keep ink on the blocks and dust off their backs," said Jim Sherraden, the exhibition's curator and chief designer at Hatch Show Print. "We're in constant production, and we've survived all the changes in printing technology to become the antithesis of contemporary digital design. I'm thrilled that we can share our story and our art through this exhibition."
 
For much of the 20th century, Hatch's vibrant posters served as a leading advertising medium for southern entertainment-from vaudeville and minstrel shows, to magicians and opera singers, to Negro League baseball games and B-movies. Many of Hatch's most loyal clients were Grand Ole Opry stars. Each Hatch Show Print poster is a unique creation, individually handcrafted and inked onto paper in a painstaking process that dates back to the 15th century. This process, known as letterpress, involves inking hand-carved wood blocks and metal photo plates and type that are then pressed onto paper to form an image.
 
The shop that produces these colorful posters has long been a downtown Nashville landmark and the guardian of a very special piece of Americana. Now owned and operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, Hatch Show Print not only carefully re-strikes some of the original, hand-carved wood blocks to reproduce classic images on the massive, old letterpresses, but also designs and prints over 600 new compositions each year, continuing in the firm's tradition.The mission of the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is to identify and preserve the evolving history and traditions of country music and to educate its audiences. Functioning as a local history museum and as an international arts organization, the museum serves visiting and non-visiting audiences including fans, students, scholars, members of the music industry and the general public-in the Nashville area, the nation and the world. Visit online at www.countrymusichalloffame.com.


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