John McHale (artist)

John McHale (born Maryhill, Glasgow 1922, died Houston,Texas 1978) was an artist, a founder member of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and a founder of the Independent Group, which was a British movement that originated Pop Art which grew out of a fascination with American mass culture and post-WWII technologies. [ [] ]

Pop art

According to McHale's son, the term Pop Art was first coined by his father in 1954 in conversation with Frank Cordell [ [] ] , although other sources erroneously credit its origin to the British critic Lawrence Alloway. ["Pop art", "A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art", Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press, 1998.] ["Pop art", "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms", Michael Clarke, Oxford University Press, 2001.] Both versions agree that the term was in use in Independent Group discussions by mid 1955.

The critic Reyner Banham called John McHale the "scholar-artist, this 'Father of Pop'". ["The Expendable Ikon:Works by John McHale", Albright Knox catalogue May 12-July 8, 1984. (p43)] Alloway in his "Artforum" article on "Pop art Since 1949" notes that "with reference to pop art that could be demonstrated […] John McHale made collages in 1955 out of the then-fresh postwar color printed American magazines." McHale's works included fine arts, graphics, exhibition design, television, film and general consultancy to organisations in the US and Europe. He exhibited widely in Europe from 1950.He started as a Constructivism artist and then transitioned into his Pop art and proto Op art. With fellow members of the Independent Group, Richard Hamilton, Reyner Banham and Lawrence Alloway he organised the "Growth and Form" exhibition in 1951, inspired by the work of the scientist D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson. Although it received no financial support from the government or the Festival Office it had an agenda which was close to the official exhibitions of the Festival of Britain. [Becky E. Conekin, "The Autobiography of a Nation: The 1951 Exhibition of Britain", Manchester University Press, 2003. pp62-3. ISBN 0719060605] McHale with Alloway curated a "Collages and Objects" exhibit at the ICA in 1954, where McHale first exhibited his formative Pop Art collages including the "Transistor" series, and his interactive gaming collage "Why I Took To The Washers In Luxury Flats". [ Collage The Making of Modern Art, Brandon Taylor, Thames Hudson, pp139-141] [ A re-construction of McHale's Collage book "Why I Took To The Washers in Luxury Flats" was gifted by Magda Cordell McHale to Albright-Knox Gallery in 1995] McHale was awarded a scholarship to study with Joseph Albers at the Design Department of Yale University in August 1955, and returned to London in June 1956. John McHale participated in the 1956 exhibition "This Is Tomorrow" at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, where he supplied a good deal of the Pop Art visual material.David Robbins and Jacquelynn Baas, "The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty", MIT Press, 1990, p139. ISBN 0262181398.] (Projectors, gramophone motors, film posters and probably the juke box were supplied by Frank Cordell) Jeremy Hunt states in his article on 'This Is Tomorrow' that the exhibition Pop Art poster "Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?" is attributed to "Richard Hamilton based on a design by McHale." [ Jeremy Hunt, "Just what is that makes today's artists, so rich, so successful", in 'This Is Tomorrow 1956-2006'] According to Magda Cordell, "the material in that collage came from John McHale's files." [David Robbins and Jacquelynn Baas, "The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty", MIT Press, 1990, p190. ISBN 0262181398 An example of the collage materials provided in the form of media "tear sheets" by McHale can be found on p58.]

Published work

Born in Scotland, McHale was educated in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, with a PhD in Sociology. ["Futures Directory", compiled by John McHale,and Magda Cordell McHale, published by Westview Press, 1977. (394).] McHale published extensively in Europe and the US on the impact of technology and culture, mass communications and the future. His numerous articles include "Gropius and the Bauhaus" in "Art" (1955), "Joseph Albers" and "Buckminster Fuller" in "Architectural Review" (1956), "The Expendable Ikon #1, #2" in "Architectural Design" (1959),"The Fine Arts and Mass Media" in Cambridge Opinion (17)(1959), "The Plastic Parthenon" in "Macatre" (1966) and "2000+" in "Architectural Design" (1967), "Telefutures: Prospective Observations" in "The New Television: A Public/Private Art", MOMA (1977),"The Future of Art and Mass Culture", "Leonardo", (Vol.12, No.1, Winter,1979, pp59-64),"The Future and Function of Art", ART News Feb 1973,pp24-28. His books include "The Future of the Future" published by Braziller in 1968, "The Ecological Context", also by Braziller, in 1970, "World Facts and Trends" published by Collier-MacMillan in 1972, and "The Changing Information Environment" published by Westview Press in 1972. McHale was a member of the Southern Illinois University Design Faculty. In the 1960s he was an Associate with Buckminster Fuller in the World Resources Inventory and in the World Design Science Decade Centre at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he co-authored a number of the reports. [Edward Cornish, "The Study of the Future", Transaction Publishers, 1977. p172. ISBN 0930242033] []


McHale was a Fellow (and Secretary-General) of the World Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of Arts, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the American Geographical Society. He was awarded the Medaille d' Honneur en Vermeil, Society d' Encouragement au Progres in 1966 and the Knight Commanander's Cross of the Order of St. Denis in 1974. McHale was a member of the American Sociological Association, Institute of Ecology, Society for the Advancement of General Systems Theory, a member of the Colorado Archaeological Society, a member of the World Futures Studies Federation, and a founding member of the Futures Advisory Board. ["Futures Directory" (p394) ]


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