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 Tim Rollins + K.O.S.  (1955 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/Maine      Known for: collaborative contemporary artwork

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Ad Code: 3
Tim Rollins
from Auction House Records.
The Red Badge of Courage V
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
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,

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