The Letterpress Guild will be celebrating their 30th anniversary with a Broadside Exhibition at the Arsenal Center for the Arts. The exhibit opens on August 30th and ends September 30th with an opening reception on September 8th.
This unique collection features over 100 letterpress pieces from artists all over the country and overseas. And with the ample space that the arsenal offers, this year’s exhibit will certainly be impressive.
A founder of the Letterpress Guild, Leslie Evans was kind enough to talk about the upcoming show.
“I was in the Juror in the show but I am also a founding member of the Letterpress Guild. This is our 30th anniversary, and every ten years we put on a show. This year, I received a council grant from Watertown, so I thought that The Arsenal Center would be a very nice venue. I think it offers a lot of exposure for them as a group.”
The reputable location isn’t the only exciting new variant in this years show. The expanded range of artists showing work promises an eclectic and vibrant mix of prints.
“This is sort of the first time we had a call for entries. It’s been more about the member’s work. And there is really a range of books and posters. However, because of the space at the Arsenal Center it seemed like the broadside poster was the best route because they don’t need as much display space.”
An exhibition that focuses on one art form allows for the exploration of its most fascinating intricacies such as various machines, inks and techniques.
The specificity of the show has swayed the Letterpress Guild to extend their reach for applicants across great distances, adding to their already expansive collection. The Broadside exhibition is an open opportunity to discover the remarkable history and art of printing.
“We basically wanted to get a range from around the country. So we got quite a range of people from California, Oregon and even some submissions from Britain. Some applicants are just starting out and there are some really experienced people too. It shows a great range of experience, materials, and content. There are poetry broadsides, commercial broadsides, or the more artistic broadside. So it really shows a range of approaches.”
The Letterpress is one of the oldest forms of mass printing. Although it seems primitive compared to today’s technology, the letterpress requires many working details to effectively produce an image. Like vinyl, the letterpress is reappearing as a popular trend amongst enthusiasts because of its authentic aesthetic.
“A lot of people are doing this in school so there has kind of been resurgence. There is a traditional approach, which is with handset type and a very painstaking sort of approach.”
“But many people have come into it doing polymer plates, which basically means they are setting their type on a computer and making a plate and just printing a reproduction of a plate. So that can be an easier way to go about it but it is still legitimate. Some people may not call it a letterpress but that is an ongoing argument.”
Regardless of the approach, letterpress printing offers a declarative approach to typography. The possible combinations of representational imageries in juxtaposition to particular fonts create a new way of thinking about visual language and semiotics. For example, an antique appearance of traditional letterpress leaves room for artists to play with modern-day symbols in a historical context, creating an ambiguous notion of time.
“It’s very easy to get hooked onto this because you use your hands. You are touching material and it’s not all through a computer. Its very hands on and I think people really enjoy that.”
“And the actual type and machines are actually very fun and fascinating to watch them work. The pearl press on display will only be operational during the opening but not for the rest of the exhibit.”
In addition to the chance to see a press in action, the exhibit will be featuring an experienced speaker to talk about the development and history of the Letterpress.
“We are going to have a speaker named John Kristenson of firefly press. He is probably one of the better printers in the country I’d say. And he’ll be giving a talk at 2 o’clock based on the title ‘Everything Old is New Again’ because there is sort of a resurgence of this technology in printing.”
THE ARSENAL CENTER FOR THE ARTS
321 ARSENAL STREET
HRS: MON-FRI 12PM-6PM
RECEPTION: SEPT 8TH 1PM-4PM