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Who Said "Can't" Exhibition

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition  

Who Said "Can't" ExhibitionArtist Unknown.
Who Said "Can't"?, 1929

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition
Beatty, Frank.
The Perfect Finish, 1929

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition
Depuy, Hal.
Over the Plate!, 1929

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition
Artist Unknown.
Worry Won't Bridge the Gap, 1927

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition
Artist Unknown.
Are You Feeling Fit?, 1929 

The Mather Work Incentive Posters 1923-1929

October 1 through November 15, 2015

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge famously declared, "The chief business of the American people is business...The chief ideal of the American people is idealism."

Ninety years later, a timely exhibition of rare original posters from the 1920s resonates loudly as the nation faces new economic and political challenges. "Who Said 'Can't'?: The Mather Work Incentive Posters 1923-1929," features visually stunning rarities recently discovered in old factory warehouses. The new collection of more than 100 posters makes possible our first Mather exhibition since our ground-breaking 2008 show entitled "Made in America."

Printed in Chicago between 1923 and 1929, The Mather Work Incentive posters were designed to increase productivity and boost the morale of the American workforce during a time of economic expansion. Armed with bold headlines and striking visual metaphors, the posters were distributed to factories and companies across America. They represent a significant chapter in both American graphic design as well as social and economic history. Mather created 350 different posters before the series fell victim to the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Each poster represents a unique expression of the idealism and optimism of the rising nation. Expressing classic virtues of loyalty, integrity, cooperation, and pride, these posters are rooted in American values and work ethic. Often using sports metaphors and 'straight talk,' these posters reflect a new movement and prevailing business philosophy known as "Welfare Capitalism." Mather claimed  an incredible 40,000 corporate clients in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain by 1929.

Outstanding American artists such as Willard Frederic Elmes and Hal Depuy, represented in the exhibition, boldly employed familiar images such as racing trains, running football players, and mischievous clowns alongside headlines that were striking in their directness and simplicity. The "can-do" spirit of the era - and the Mather series - is captured in the show's headliner poster Who Said Can't from the 1929 series that calls on Lindbergh's heroic flight across the Atlantic in 1927 to remind workers that anything is possible.

One fine example by Elmes, The Perfect Finish (1929), depicts a sailing crew hard at work during a boat race. The subtitle, a classic example of Mather's lexicon, warns: "No job's done till it's ALL done." The poster succinctly communicates the importance of teamwork, healthy competition, and efficiency on the job.

Also on display is a poster by Depuy featuring bold imagery from America's favorite pastime, baseball. Over the Plate! depicts a pitcher mid-throw, asserting "Winners never have to say they're good - their work proves it.  RESULTS TALK."  The baseball metaphor plays directly to the American worker, inspiring hard work and discouraging time wasting and conceit.

"Our second exhibition of Mather's posters is timely as ever as we reexamine our national values this election cycle," comments gallery owner Jim Lapides. "These graphically stunning pieces reflect a simpler era, but their message of idealism and working smart is timeless." 

View all Mather Work Incentive posters

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition Depuy, Hal.
 Circle Chasers, 1929 

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition   Artist Unknown.
Out of the Running, 1929

    Who Said "Can't" Exhibition
Artist Unknown.
The Teamworker!, 1929

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition Artist Unknown.
 Round 'Em Up!, 1929

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition  Artist Unknown.
Build A Seven-Day Reputation, 1924

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition
Elmes, Willard Frederic.
Ready to Spring!, 1929  

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition Elmes, Willard Frederic.
 Straight as an Arrow, 1929

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition Artist Unknown.
See Them Stare!, 1927

Who Said "Can't" Exhibition Artist Unknown.
Hot Heads Never Do Cool Thinking, 1927