ICA is pleased to present Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History the first major museum retrospective of work by artist, activist, and teacher Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival), a group of artists originally made up of Rollins' students from Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx. Rollins and his students are known for their large, minimalist works of art on the pages of books cut out and laid in a grid on canvas. Together, they have developed a collaborative strategy that combines lessons in reading and writing with the production of works of art. In a process they call "jammin," Rollins or one of the students reads aloud from the selected text while the other members draw and relate the stories to their own experiences. These drawings are then cut and pasted or enlarged and recreated on the grid.
Rollins and K.O.S. have produced paintings, prints, photographs, and sculpture based on literary texts such as Franz Kafka's Amerika, Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and musical scores, including Winterreise by Franz Schubert. The exhibition will include over 20 works created between 1984 and 2000. The Emmy award winning documentary film on Tim Rollins and K.O.S. will screen continuously in the mezzanine.
In August 1981, Tim Rollins, then twenty-six years old, was recruited by George Gallego, principal of Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx, to develop a curriculum that incorporated art-making with reading and writing lessons for students who had been classified as academically or emotionally "at risk." Rollins told his students on that first day, "Today we are going to make art, but we are also going to make history."
The collaboration between Rollins and his students soon outgrew the classroom. Frustrated with the strictures of the public school system, Rollins opened the Art and Knowledge Workshop, an after-school program in an abandoned school building five blocks from IS52. After teaching all day at IS52, Rollins would meet K.O.S. members at the workshop; homework would be done and art would be made. In 1987, Rollins and K.O.S. began using a traveling workshop format to spread the ideas and inspiration behind their project beyond the South Bronx. In 1994, Rollins and K.O.S. moved their operation to a studio in Chelsea. There Rollins and some long-term K.O.S. members rebuilt and expanded the project nationally and internationally, significantly increasing the number of workshops conducted with other schools and arts institutions. Today there are active K.O.S. members in Philadelphia, Memphis, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York.
Rollins and K.O.S.'s decision to exhibit the art that they had created in their classroom in professional galleries marked an important turning point in their history; it signaled the moment they began to distinguish themselves from other teacher-student collaborations and demanded that their work be engaged first as fine art. Between the mid-1980s and early-1990s, Rollins and K.O.S. participated in two Whitney Biennials (1985, 1991) Documenta (1987), the Venice Biennale (1988), the Carnegie International (1988) and had solo shows at institutions such as the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (1988); Museum für Gegenwärtskunst Basel, Switzerland (1990); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (1990); and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (1992).
Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A Historyis curated by Ian Berry, Malloy Curator of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in collaboration with the artists, and is coordinated at the ICA by Kate Kraczon, Assistant Curator. This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.