Expect intergalactic warfare, sexy cyborgs, laser-shooting robo-bugs, and telekinetic Persian cats in The Mind’s Eye: The Art of Omni, out in June from powerHouse Books. Compiled here for the first time are 185 images from the now-defunct magazine’s archives.
Omni was known for it provocative content, which set it compellingly apart from other popular science magazines. Founded in 1978 by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione and his third wife, South African ballerina-turned-stripper-turned-editor Kathy Keeton, Omni predicted the future, explored the paranormal, and made science badass instead of dorky. We wouldn't blink at the headline, "Robopsychology and Computers: Love at First Byte," today, but back then it was shocking. With contributors William Gibson, Robert Heinlein, and George R.R. Martin, Omni was the stuff of sci-fi nerd dreams.
A big part of the magazine's appeal lay in its much-loved space/time-bending art. Omni's unparalleled visuals were largely thanks to Guccione, a painter long before he was a publisher, and a man who hand-picked each artist and image that the magazine featured.
The new book, with 185 artworks, is edited by high school best friends-turned-business partners Jeremy Frommer, a financier and entrepreneur, and Rick Schwartz, a former Miramax exec who produced Gangs of New York and The Departed.
"It’s one thing to go, ‘Oh, that’s a pretty painting,'" Frommer tells Co.Design. "It’s another thing to look at a painting and say, ‘Man, I really want a tour of that spaceship,’" Frommer says.
In 2012, Frommer and Schwartz, co-CEOs of media company Jerrick Ventures (which, among other things, runs "disruptive erotica brand" Filthy Gorgeous), purchased a huge storage locker full of the late Guccione’s memorabilia at an auction. Frommer, who became quite enamored of Guccione, describes him as a "Leonardo Da Vinci of his era," and spent years traveling the world, buying up the original paintings featured in Omni. "They’re something I want to share with the world," Frommer says of the works, now in his personal collection.
In addition to compiling The Mind’s Eye, Frommer has helped to organize Omni Reboot, a digital revival of the magazine, and an exhibition of the work. And there's more coming Frommer and a team that includes science writer Claire L. Evans: They aim to reintroduce Omni to a new generation that is unfamiliar with the tactile qualities of print.
Pointing to highlights from the collection, Frommer geeks out over the work of Colin Hay, who specialized in space battles. "They aren’t necessarily deep in terms of their message, but they’re very deep in terms of detail," he says. His personal favorite, John Berkey, did much of the original poster art for the Star Wars trilogy, and his work is collected by many an Apple and Google exec. Best beloved of Guccione was Swiss surrealist Hans Giger, who designed the aliens for the movie Alien, contributed to the lesser-known (but equally important) cult horror flick Killer Condom, and hung out with the likes of Timothy Leary and Salvador Dali.
The Mind's Eye brings the then-futuristic Omni back. Click through the slide show above for highlights from the book's time-warping art.
The Mind's Eye: The Art of Omni is available from powerHouse Books.