Magazine article Artforum International

Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART

Magazine article Artforum International

Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART

Article excerpt

This modest exhibition of approximately twenty woodcuts, sculptures, and paintings harks back to 1980s New York. Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival), a collective that emerged at the beginning of the decade from Rollins's pedagogical activities with a group of "at risk" students in a South Bronx public school, have produced a rich oeuvre based on the discussion and analysis of literary works ranging from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, to Kafka's Amerika, to Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. The group's collaborative practice can be viewed as an urgent response to the political and cultural conservativism of the '80s--in which the art establishment endorsed a fierce return to traditional modes of production and circulation (i.e., neo-expressionist painting displayed in the white cube). Simultaneously, a cadre of collectives emerged (centered largely around the East Village) seeking ways to bridge art and political activism. One of the more significant was Group Material, of which Rollins was a founding member, and K.O.S. might be seen as an offshoot of his activities there.

The exhibition--curated by Ian Berry and traveling from the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery in Saratoga Springs, New York, where it debuted last February--emphasizes mostly the objects produced by this singular collective over the course of nearly two decades, with a particular focus on the years between 1984 and 1998. The rewarding result delivered not only formal diversity but a range of operations befitting what must have been a fascinating process of interaction between the artist and his largely Latino students. So while the paintings Dracula (After Bram Stoker) and Frankenstein (After Mary Shelley), both 1983, are notable for their pictorial materiality, rich imagery, and a clear cartoonlike style of thick outlines, crude forms, bold colors, and flat spaces that facilitates narrative, others, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream VI (After Shakespeare), 2000, tend toward abstraction, allover compositionality, and delicate shapes. …

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