04th Aug2014

Book Review: ‘The Mind’s Eye: The Art of Omni’

by Jack Kirby

Edited by Jeremy Frommer and Rick Schwartz | Introduction by Ben Bova | Published by powerHouse Books | Format: Hardcover, 224pp

omni_cvr

Omni was a magazine published from the late-seventies to the mid-nineties mostly covering science and science fiction. I was a bit young to have been a reader of it, but having researched the magazine after looking through The Mind’s Eye: The Art of Omni, I can confirm that it looks like exactly the kind of wacky and fantastic thing I would have dug hard. The Art of Omni is a collection of some of the illustrations that graced the magazine’s pages and it is quite wonderful to see.

Most of the illustrations could quite comfortably be under ‘cosmic surrealism’, the name given to some contributions by Luděk Pešek. There are depictions of futuristic landscapes, cyborgs, aliens, distant planets and so forth as well as some weird, Daliesque images straight out of some peoples’ kooky subconscious. I am by no means an expert on art so I’m unable to offer a particularly informed critique of the illustrations themselves. I can however offer that I was impressed by most of what I saw – a lot of the illustrations passed the ‘would I put that on my wall’ test. As I was scrolling through my review PDF, I felt that along with Dali, that the influence of the recently departed HR Giger informed much of the work – and then lo and behold, there was a piece by the man himself. Some pieces also seemed like they would make good bedfellows with the work of Storm Thorgerson. Again, I found myself thinking that most of the illustrations would make for some pretty gnarly album covers for any number of psychedelic prog rock bands and then recognised one by Frank Frazetta that had been used on Wolfmother (remember them?)’s debut album. It was called ‘The Sea Witch‘ but had been used by Omni in 1980 to accompany a short story by Robert Silverberg with the exponentially better title, ‘Our Lady of the Sauropods’. I was also quite taken with Hajime Sorayama’s tyrannosaurus with robot head, which graced the cover of Omni in 1992, though is difficult find on the internet. His drawings of sexy robots in compromising positions, however, are not.

The trouble with reviewing a digital copy of the book is that is impossible to say how big the thing is in real life or how high the quality of the reproductions are. I hope the artwork has been given the treatment it deserves as most of these images really do lend themselves to the big scale. The only disappointment the book gave me was not in and of itself, but that as the industry is dying on its arse, there doesn’t seem to be any high-profile magazine that has given over so much space to quality illustration. The spirit of Omni continues online (such is the way of all things) but it would be great to continue to live in a world where periodicals gave pages over to detailed illustrations of elephants grazing on the moon, or bio-mechanical oddities or paintings simply titled ‘Squid!’.

The Mind’s Eye: The Art of Omni is not just a guide to how people thought the future might one day be, but a reminder of what the past once was and how the present should be.

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