EMP/SFM, First Venue For American Letterpress: The Art Of Hatch Show Print

This appeared in the PM Newswire - July 24, 2008

Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (EMP|SFM) is proud to be the first venue to host American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print, a new exhibition organized by Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the Country Music Hall of Fame(R) and Museum. The exhibition is a celebration of the legacy and impact Hatch Show Print has had on the advertising industry since its opening in 1879. American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print will open at EMP|SFM on Oct. 11, 2008 and run through July 16, 2009.

Opened by brothers Herbert H. and Charles R. Hatch in Nashville, Tennessee, Hatch Show Print produced handcrafted posters with simple yet memorable slogans such as "More Power, More Pep" and "Always Clean, Always Good." Almost 130 years later, Hatch posters hold their own as a stirring and refreshingly tactile contrast to current digital advertising tactics.

"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."

American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print features 126 historical and contemporary posters and 29 hand-carved wooden blocks-some of which are on view for the first time. Whether in posters promoting a Johnny Cash concert or capturing the modern-day verve of a concert by The Strokes, Hatch Show Print captures the heralded traditions of American letterpress printing and graphic art at their very best.

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 meticulous process that dates back to the 15th century. This process, known as letterpress, involves inking hand-carved wood blocks, metal photo plates and type that are then pressed onto paper to form an image.

Hatch Show Print 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(R) 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 letterpresses, but also designs and prints over 600 new compositions each year, continuing the firm's tradition.

EMP|SFM is augmenting the exhibit with a display of stage costumes and cowboy boots from the collection of country music star Marty Stuart. They include outfits and boots worn by artists featured on the exhibit posters, including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Gene Autry, Hank Snow and Roy Rogers.

"The beautiful Hatch Show prints and the incredible costumes and boots from Marty Stuart's collection make this one of the most visually dynamic exhibits we've ever had on display at EMP|SFM," said Jasen Emmons, director of curatorial affairs at EMP|SFM.

American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print is supported by America's Jazz Heritage, a partnership of The Wallace Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.

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