Saturday, February 13, 2010

Music on Paper

Some friends invited us to accompany them to the Austin Museum of Art last night. The current exhibit is a collection of Hatch poster prints and some of the original wood blocks used for the images. It's an impressive show. Particularly, many of the prints are oversized, and it's interesting to see up close how each sheet of paper is pieced together, as well as to see the large, pieced together wooden blocks carved with the original images. 

Hatch, based in Nashville, is one of the oldest working printing presses in the US. Two brothers started the press around 1870, and the company’s prints continue to evolve today, though they are indeed still printed by hand. In addition to producing graphics for other kinds of advertising, a large part of Hatch’s work over the years has been the creation of country music concert posters.

The exhibit included old posters for Bob Wills, Loretta Young, Willie Nelson and Elvis. But it also included contemporary posters for Beck, Wilco, Elvis Costello, The White Stripes and many others. The most beautiful, if I consider them exclusively as pieces of art, were the giant "make ready" images. Essentially, printers test run inked up blocks on large sheets of newsprint. The same sheet of newsprint might be used multiple times to test multiple blocks (i.e. various carved images). So the effect is surreal-looking layered images that, by their layers, provoke a sense of depth - foreground, middle ground and background all there on the page, but they develop their individual compositions purely accidentally.

The show also included fun vintage ads for coffee, wrestling matches and state fairs. There were also some not so old (depending, I suppose, on how old you are) state fair posters. 

Before leaving, I perused the gift shop and came across a cookbook called Music in the Kitchen (University of TX Press, 2009). I've linked to the Austin Chronicle review. The cookbook pulls together favorite recipes that Austin City Limits performers contribute. Go figure, the basic idea for my blog is remarkably unoriginal a timely delight.

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