I carried the KOS video around with me from school to school hoping I could do something similar. I remember one young KOS member did a huge collage from the broken glass he had collected from the streets of his neighborhood. He called it something like the “night sky” (not sure). During the filming of this KOS doc. this young artist was shot and killed by nearby gunfire. This horror shook me but made the whole project so real.
The artist Tim Rollins, who is best known for his work with the collective KOS (Kids of Survival), has died at age 62. He died of natural causes, according to the members of KOS. A lifelong artist and activist, Rollins developed his collaborative practice while teaching middle school art classes in the South Bronx in the early 1980s. The conceptual pieces that resulted from Rollins’s collaboration with KOS — typically, large-scale paintings on book pages — often derived meaning through the combination of the marks made and the text of the chosen books that served as backdrops, which ranged from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952).
“The great Jane Addams, the Chicago social activist, had a notion of democratic aesthetics,” Rollins told Studio International’s Lilly Wei in 2014. “It’s like a community choir and people get together. Some sing like Aretha Franklin and some do not, but everyone is allowed to be in the choir and everyone’s voices are raised in unison in one common song. That’s the spirit of this group.”
Rollins was just 26 when he began teaching at Intermediate School 52 in the Bronx, where he developed the program that would result in KOS. Shortly thereafter, he founded the Art and Knowledge Workshop nearby, an after-school program for students passionate about art. There he and the students who became members of KOS honed the process of simultaneous working and reading that they would thereafter refer to as “jammin’,” and began incorporating pages from the texts into the artworks.