Magda Cordell McHale, Professor Emerita

Release Date: February 26, 2008 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Magda Lustigova Cordell McHale, professor emerita in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, and a pioneering and influential American artist and futurist, died Feb. 21 at the Buffalo home of her friend and caretaker, Denise Kelleher.

Born in Hungary 1921, McHale was a member of the UB faculty from 1978-99. She was married to the late Frank Cordell, artistic director of EMI records, and then the late John McHale, the groundbreaking artist who is considered the father of the Pop Art movement.

Kathryn A. Foster, UB professor of urban and regional planning and director of UB's Regional Institute, worked with McHale for several years and called her "truly one of a kind; a unique personality, opinionated and totally direct, worldly wise and known for her tremendous forethought -- a big thinker who decades ago brought to UB a deep knowledge of globalism, intergenerational shifts in thought and culture, and the impact of new technologies long before the rest of us began to consider them. These are the issues that informed her life," Foster said.

"Magda was a professor emerita who never attended college. This would be is extremely difficult today, but she demonstrated to all of us how thinking outside the canon, its tools and methods can enrich and deeply inform academia.

"She was devoted to her department, and with the deepest generosity promoted our understanding of its history and the unique personalities who shaped it," she said. "In all of her years at UB, she never missed a faculty meeting and to the end remained in touch with former students and they with her. She was deeply appreciated by all of us and will be deeply, deeply missed."

In 1946, McHale was a regular figure at London's newly formed Institute of Contemporary Arts, which was and is devoted to nontraditional, anti-academic artistic expression and helped launch Pop art, Op art and British "brutalist" art and architecture.

A few years later, she and John McHale were among the founders of the Independent Group (IG), an influential British collaborative that grew out of a fascination with American mass culture, post-World War II technologies and the post-war British aesthetics of plenty.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, McHale explored her interest in the creative processes and bodily iconography in a series of large-scale, monumental paintings and mixed-media monoprints that were exhibited in major galleries.

Distinguished architectural critic Rayner Banham, also a member of the UB faculty, included a photograph of her painting, "Figure," (1955) in his article "The New Brutalism" in Architectural Review in 1955. Today, her work is held in several major public collections, including the Tate, London and Albright-Knox Art galleries.

McHale spent decades researching and writing about the long-range consequences of social, cultural and technological change on global societies. She was a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and past vice president of the World Futures Studies Federation.

In celebration of this legacy, she endowed the McHale Fellowship in the UB School of Architecture and Planning in 2000 to support design work that involves speculation on the impact of new technologies on architecture.

Her books included "Facts & Trends: The Changing Information Environment; An Information Chartbook" (1985), "Ominous Trends and Valid Hopes: A Comparison of Five World Reports" (1984) and, with John McHale, "Basic Human Needs" (1978), "Futures Directory" (1977) and "Women in World Terms: Facts and Trends" (1975).

She was on the editorial board or editorial advisory board of several publications, including Multi: The Journal of Diversity and Plurality in Design, published by the Rochester Institute of Technology.

She is survived by stepchildren John (Renee), Julian and Even McHale and was the loving friend of Denise, Erin and Heather Kelleher.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 28, in the Amherst Memorial Chapel Inc., 281 Dodge Road, Amherst. There will be no prior visitation. Donations may be made to Hospice Foundation, Buffalo, N.Y. A larger memorial service will be held later in the year.

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