Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History

Ian Berry

Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History
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Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History

Ian Berry

In August 1981, artist and activist Tim Rollins was recruited by the principal of Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx to develop a curriculum that combined art-making with lessons in reading and writing for students classified as “at risk.” On the first day of school, Rollins told his students, “Today we are going to make art, but we are also going to make history.” This book unfolds that history, offering the first comprehensive catalogue of work created collaboratively by Rollins and several generations of students, now known as the “Kids of Survival.”

Rollins and his students developed a way of working that combined art-making with reading literature and writing personal narratives: Rollins or a student would read aloud from classic literary texts by such authors as Shakespeare and Orwell while the rest of the class drew or wrote on the pages being read, connecting the stories to their own experiences. Often, Rollins and his students (who later named themselves “Kids of Survival” or K.O.S.) cut out book pages and laid them on a grid on canvas before undertaking their graphic interventions. This process developed into the group’s signature style, which they applied to literary texts, musical scores, and other printed matter. This book and the accompanying major museum retrospective document the history of the groundbreaking practice of Tim Rollins and K.O.S., with full color images of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints. These include a caricature of Jesse Helms with an animal body drawn on the pages of Animal Farm; graffiti-like images painted in acrylic on the pages of Frankenstein; a gleaming pattern of fantastical golden horns on Kafka’s Amerika; and a series of red letter A’s on The Scarlet Letter.

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