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Beyond Belief
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The World To Come: Sketching a vision of the world beyond this one.
Was “AC – testplayer copy”
Nathan Oliveira
Allegorical Drawing, 1960. Ink on paper. 12 1/4 in. x 19 in. Collection SFMOMA, gift of Mr. Sol Upsher. © Estate of Nathan Oliveira.
Winging It
Nathan Oliveira’s Allegorical Drawing, from 1960, features a mysterious winged image. Several years after he created this piece, the artist renewed his interest in the symbolism of flight as seen in his Windhover series, debuting in 1995. The title for the series was adopted from an 1877 poem by the Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins, who equated the natural phenomenon of a falcon’s flight with spiritual significance.

Oliveira, who once said that he wanted his work to “make a spiritual difference,” discusses the creation of his Windhover project in this video. “The concept of these paintings was always very spiritual,” he states. And as for the future? “I’m just waiting now for the next leg of the journey.”
Ross Bleckner
Ross Bleckner
Knights not Nights, 1987. Oil, beeswax, pigment, and damar crystals on canvas. 108 in. x 72 in. Collection SFMOMA, Museum purchase: gift of Frances F. Bowes, Byron R. Meyer, Mary W. Thacher, and Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Walker, Jr. © Ross Bleckner. Photo: Ben Blackwell.
Back to Black
Jewish tradition refers to life after death as “the world to come” (Ha’olam Ha’ba in Hebrew), an ambiguous term that reflects our fundamental inability to understand what will happen after we die. For many artists, the mystery of that future is a source of powerful creative inspiration.

Created during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Ross Bleckner’s painting, Knights not Nights, depicts multiple hands emerging from darkness, as if they were stars. These luminous forms could be interpreted as the hopeful continuity of earthly spirits.
Which image best represents “the world to come”?

See how others have answered.

Blank canvas
Black void
Blinding light
Gray fog
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Inner Glow
In his photography-based artworks called photograms, Bruce Conner created unique, luminous representations of his body. Evocative of angels or ultrasound images, they suggest something ephemeral or otherworldly.

The constantly evolving Conner experimented with representations of himself at a moment of creative stasis. In 1974, when he created SOUND OF ONE HAND ANGEL, he chose to capture his image with a return to an old-fashioned photographic processes called the photogram. Below is a summary of how Conner, who died in 2008, created the images for his ANGEL series.
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Step 1
A wooden platform is placed against the wall, on which a large roll of unexposed, light-sensitive photographic paper is hung.
Step 2
Conner, who is naked, presses his body against the photographic paper, experimenting with different poses.
Step 3
The artist’s collaborator, photographer Edmund Shea, flashes white light from a slide projector.
Step 4
In the resulting image, the artist’s body appears in white against a black background, as if the artist himself was the source of light.
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Bruce Conner
Bruce Conner
SOUND OF ONE HAND ANGEL, 1974. Gelatin silver print. 87 3/4 in. x 41 1/4 in. Collection SFMOMA, purchase. © Estate of Bruce Conner/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ben Blackwell.