Find, Learn, Price Art
Enjoy the comprehensive art database we've compiled since 1987
Membership Details
Images, sales charts, bios, signatures, 30 artist Alerts and more ...
Art auction records:  Millions of references for pricing research
Or, register for Free Alerts
To track 10 artists.

Already a member?  Sign in here

Tim William (Timothy) Rollins + KOS

 (1955 - 2017)
Tim William (Timothy) Rollins + K.O.S. was active/lived in New York, Maine.  Tim Rollins KOS is known for collaborative contemporary artwork, teaching.

Tim William (Timothy) Rollins + K.O.S.

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Tim William (Timothy) Rollins + K.O.S.
A conceptual artist and art teacher, who began working with learning disabled, often emotionally handicapped students in the early 1980s, Tim Rollins kept working with them and now the group is called Tim Rollins + K.O.S. (Kids of Survival).  Typically they make works based on classical literature such as the Bible, Prometheus Bound, The Red Badge of Courage, Alice in Wonderland and Moby Dick.

He invites young people from all over the world to make etchings and woodcuts of these and other subjects, and the result is a combination of popular and street culture, innocence and sophistication, violence and peace.  Sometimes a group with Rollins goes out to create 'under cover' on the streets of New York.

The method is to read a book and then take it apart, both physically and intellectually.  As Rollins reads, the kids draw, coming up with individual interpretations.  Then as a group, they unify by distilling the images and deciding which ones are the most truthful, the most effective.  Then they put them on large grid pages, results that Rollins refers to "ideological battlescenes".

Rollins (born 1955) grew up as a poor kid in rural Maine, and was the first member of his family to attend college.  He graduated from the University of Maine and then attended the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1980 and the New York University School of Art Education.  In those days he was enamored with Russian Constructivists and "how they developed forms to serve revolutionary politics---abstract designs that projected enthusiasm, progress, affirmation, even joy...." (Deicher).  That same year he and a group including Nancy Spero, Joseph Kosuth, Leon Golub, Lucy Lippard and Carl Andre founded the Group Material to maintain exhibition space for their works that addressed social themes and the way that democracy should function.  At the same time, he was teaching in a citywide program, "Learning to Read Though the Arts", and an exhibition resulted at the Group Material Gallery and got publicity in the Village Voice.

In 1982, Tim Rollins became a full-time art teacher for special-needs students in the South Bronx, and he started an after school program that led to K.O.S.  A goal for him was to rectify the breach between the kids' artistic talents and their reading abilities.  It was assumed they could not read.  However, he launched them into 'great' literature and fed their fascination with rebellion by letting them deconstruct the work.  By 1985, K.O.S. had its first exhibition with the stipulation the work had to be beautiful because they lived in such ugly surroundings.  Two years later, the program expanded to kids outside the Bronx; solo exhibitions were held in Derry, Northern Ireland and the Dia Center for the Arts.  And from that time, K.O.S. has been an "opening up of culture". (Deitcher)

Sources include:
David Deitcher, "Tim Rollins talks to David Deitcher", ArtForum, April 2003,

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Tim William (Timothy) Rollins + K.O.S.
"Maine-born and bred, collaborative artist Tim Rollins dies at 62," Obituary, The Portland Press Herald,
December 28, 2017

The Pittsfield native achieved international claim but remembered his roots.
By Dennis Hoey, Staff Writer

Tim Rollins, an internationally recognized artist who grew up in Maine and whose work was featured last year by the Portland Museum of Art, died this week of natural causes.

Rollins, 62, lived and taught in New York City, but was born and raised in the central Maine town of Pittsfield.

“Everyone at the PMA was incredibly fond of Tim and deeply saddened by this loss,” the Portland Museum of Art said in a blog posted Thursday.

News of his passing came from the Maureen Paley gallery in London and Lehmann Maupin, a New York art gallery, which represented Rollins. The galleries said a public memorial to celebrate his life, which has not been arranged yet, will be announced at a later date.

Rollins studied fine art at the University of Maine in Augusta before earning his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 1981, at the age of 26, he began teaching special education in the South Bronx. His students were classified as being academically or emotionally at risk.

“Today we are going to make art, but we are also going to make history,” Rollins reportedly told his middle school students on their first day of class, Art News reported.

In 1984, he established an after-school program that became known as the Art and Knowledge Workshop, which led to the formation of K.O.S., or Kids of Survival, an artist collective that runs workshops for children.

Visitors to the Portland Museum of Art in the past year probably would have seen an oversized, colorful installation titled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that was created by Rollins and K.O.S.

Rollins and his artists’ collective began to earn worldwide recognition in 1985 when they were invited to appear at the Whitney Biennial, an exhibition of contemporary American art in New York City. That was followed in 1986 by solo exhibitions in the East Village and the Bronx.

Jessica May, arts deputy director and chief curator at the Portland museum, was instrumental in getting Rollins and K.O.S. to come to Maine in September 2016 with their art exhibition “Unbound,” which drew thousands of visitors. The exhibit ended last Dec. 31.

Rollins embraced the concept of working collaboratively to create art. In 2016, he was quoted by the Portland museum as saying that he learned a lot from watching women patch quilt panels together in his hometown of Pittsfield.

“We do everything through the power of ‘our,’ ” Rollins told the PMA. “That was the incubus for K.O.S. I said, ‘You know what? If you want to build a barn, you don’t study the theory and practice of barn building. You build a damn barn, and if the barn’s broken, what do you do? You fix it.’ I just took that homespun philosophy, and we created our own situation. Independent, libertarian. I got that from home.”

Submitted by Phil Kieffer

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Share an image of the Artist

  Full access to biographies is
  free each Friday

About  Tim William (Timothy) Rollins + K.O.S.

Born:  1955 - Pittsfield, Maine
Died:   2017 - South Bronx, New York
Known for:  collaborative contemporary artwork, teaching