On Music: Tim Rollins + K.O.S.

April 8-July 30, 2005

Tim Rollins + K.O.S., Cursing Despair, from The Creation 
(after Haydn)
, 2004. Watercolor, abaca paper, collage on
music score, 10" x 7.75". Courtesy of Carrie Secrist Gallery,
Chicago, IL
Tim Rollins + K.O.S.
Since 1982 Tim Rollins has headed the art collective Tim Rollins + K.O.S. (Kids of Survival). Rollins is highly regarded for his work with teens labeled as learning disabled, at-risk, or unreachable by their schools. The self-named K.O.S. evolved from just such a group of students (ages 13-18) in the mid- 1980s who became regulars in Rollins’ afterschool "Art & Knowledge" workshops in the south Bronx. It is Rollins’ belief that all students can, and should, read and comprehend important works of art and literature.
Tim Rollins began his long and fertile career as artist and educator in the late 1970s when he served as assistant to noted conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth. Rollins then co-founded the artist collective, Group Material, with Julie Ault and other artists. This innovative artist collective of approximately twenty artists promoted change in traditional art-making and curatorial practices, challenging issues such as gender, race, class and sexual orientation. His abiding interest in group activism, collaborative work, engagement with street culture, and the simultaneous dissection and appropriation of icons of high art into the strata of his material output have made him the focus of much attention and discussion.
Rollins—part artist, part performer, part indefatigable revival tent evangelist— believes in the transformative power of art, in the critical necessity of innovative education methods, and in collaboration as an empowering and political principle. The acclaim of Tim Rollins + K.O.S. is based both on the challenging and profound nature of the art works and on Rollins' unique mentoring relationship with young artists. He has touched the lives of hundreds of young people who have worked within K.O.S. and many more in the national and international residencies to which he and members of K.O.S. have been invited. The fruits of these collaborations can be seen in the permanent collections of over seventy prominent museums overseas and in the US, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.
On Music
The exhibition at The Kreeger Museum focuses on musically themed works that Rollins + K.O.S. have created for over 16 years. The exhibition evolved from a year-long residency with Washington, DC metropolitan area students at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Silver Spring. Spanning elementary through high school, the residency engaged over 20 at-risk students and their teachers. Pyramid Atlantic is a paper-making and print studio that is highly regarded for its cultivation of collaborative projects and dedication to art education. Collectively, they sought to picture our cosmic origins while listening to Franz Josef Haydn’s The Creation oratorio. The imaginative print portfolio produced by the students at Pyramid Atlantic takes an artistic look into the creative psyche and finds inspiration in both score and libretto of Haydn’s 1797 masterpiece.
The On Music exhibition places the print portfolio in the context of other music-themed works on paper and canvas. A colorful array of Creation watercolors are on loan from the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Kalamazoo, MI and the Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago, IL. Haydn also provided the inspiration for the canvas Mass in the Time of War and the four panels of The Seasons. Also on view is a subtle conceptual work inspired by Schubert’s Winterreise, which was last exhibited on the east coast at DIA Center for the Arts in New York. One of Rollins + K.O.S.’ signature works, Amerika, from an unfinished novel by Franz Kafka, is on loan from the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. It depicts a tangled array of unique golden horns that represent a utopian artist community coming together to create a work in unison.
The exhibition includes a documentary section with a video and photographs shot at Pyramid Atlantic that give viewers an idea of how Rollins works in a large collaborative studio environment. On Music is accompanied by a 48-page full-color catalogue, The Creation with texts and interviews by guest curators Andrea Pollan and Milena Kalinovska. The Creation folio traveled to international venues after its debut at The Kreeger Museum. In addition, the museum presented a number of public programs to enhance the musical, collaborative, and educational spirit of the exhibition.