Art Preview: A poster named Sue

By Katherine Fletcher

The invention of the poster dates back to the 15th century, where it introduced a new method of providing news, government proclamations and other information to the public. As time progressed, they were used to advertise events, like productions of Shakespeare plays. Soon they became an essential tool of advertisers, protestors and propagandists. In the late 19th century, Paris became the hot spot for colour poster culture, with a strong focus on design. Today, posters are popular means for promoting films and musical performances, and their art often garners more interest than the message or advertisement.

One of the most prolific members of poster culture is the Hatch Show Print–a poster shop based in Nashville featuring old gig posters from a wide variety of classic country stars. A selection of posters from the popular shop is currently on display at Uppercase Gallery, located in Art Central.

“I wanted to find a show that would be coinciding with Stampede, and I thought the aesthetic of Hatch would be appropriate,” says the gallery’s founder Janine Vangool of the exhibition she’s taken on as her own. “They’ve got a lot of country music, Grand Old Opry. Those sorts of posters have been around since 1879, and really helped develop the whole musical poster style.”

In the beginning, Hatch Show Print designed posters for circuses and vaudeville acts, but the print shop became better known for its posters of famous country music performers like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. Hatch Show Print also branched out into other musical genres, making posters for B.B. King and the Tragically Hip, one of whose posters is part of the exhibit. With Uppercase in its fifth month of operation, Vangool feels the Hatch Show Print exhibition has been vital in materializing the concept of her gallery.

“Uppercase Gallery focuses on design, illustration and pop culture,” she states. “So from a graphic design point, Hatch has been very influential in the design of music posters, so I thought it would be great to have them here. I was really pleased to have this show because I’ve admired Hatch Show Print for a very long time and they had a book [Hatch Show Print: The History of a Great American Poster Shop] out in 2001. I read that book and have been a big fan, really finding out more about the process and the history, so to have the show coming from there has been the pinnacle so far of the short five months.”

The book is on display at the gallery, which, in addition to being a gallery, also serves as a bookstore and home to Vangool’s design company, Vangool Design and Typography. Her interest in books and book design led her to selling hand-picked books in her gallery, and she’s always on the lookout for new works of unique and striking design.

“It’s just a matter of researching publishers, and finding out what distributors will have that can be imported into Canada,” explains Vangool. “So right now I’m buying books through about four different distributors: there’s one from California, one from New York, one in Germany, and then Raincoast Books out in Vancouver. So right now I’m sifting through their catalogues and there are a few other publishers I have my eye on that I hope to bring in by the fall.”

The Hatch Show Print exhibition includes a feature on the letterpress processĀ­–wherein ink is applied to paper using wooden or metal blocks–and the posters featured are available for sale. There are also workshops available Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons where people can make posters or postcards using rubber stamps and wood blocks.

“We just had our first [workshop] this past Saturday and it was a lot of fun,” Vangool remarks. “I think it helps bring people into the gallery and people will walk by and they don’t know what to do, they don’t understand. They’re free to walk in, so there’s people working here and doing public demonstrations, and people are more free to wander in and see what’s happening and then find out about the show and ask questions about it.”


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