Athens, Ga. – “American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print”will open at the Georgia Museum of Art on Aug. 27, and run through Nov. 26. Featuring the work of one of the nation’s oldest and continuously printing shops-Nashville, Tennessee’s Hatch Show Print-it highlights 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 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 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 more than 600 new compositions each year, continuing in the firm’s tradition.
The exhibition is supported nationally by America’s Jazz Heritage, a partnership of the Wallace Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution, and sponsored locally by Janet and Alex Patterson, Dudley Stevens, Alan F. Rothschild Jr. through the Fort Trustee Fund, Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley, Flagpole, YellowBook USA, the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.
In coordination with the exhibition, the GMOA will host its fall fundraiser, Highfalutin’ Hootenanny, on Oct. 14. For more information, see www.georgiamuseum.org.
For more information on the Country Music Hall of Fame, see www.countrymusichalloffame.com
The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service organized the exhibition. More information is available at www.sites.si.edu.
Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the Arch Foundation and the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on the East Campus of the University of Georgia. The address is 90 Carlton Street, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. 30602-6719. For more information, including hours, see www.georgiamuseum.org or call 706/542-4662.