Tim Rollins was born in Pittsfield, Maine, in 1955. He studied fine art at the University of Maine and earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 1978. Later, he pursued graduate studies in art education at New York University. Rollins is a co-founder of Group Material (1979), a collective of socially committed artists. In 1982, Tim Rollins settled at a school in the South Bronx, where he taught art to junior high school students who had been classified as learning disabled, emotionally handicapped, truant, or otherwise at-risk. Two years later, he launched the Art and Knowledge Workshop, working after school with a group of students aged sixteen to nineteen. In time, he decided to attempt what he called “a strange and stumbling hybrid” and made his own art in collaboration with the kids, who chose to call themselves K.O.S., Kids of Survival. The imagery for paintings by Rollins + K.O.S. is drawn from American and European literature—Melville’s Moby Dick, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Kafka’s Amerika, and Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise, for example. The kids paint highly personalized forms and symbols over book pages pasted, usually, on mural-sized canvas. Rollins continues to work with K.O.S., 30 years after the group’s formation, though the individual members have changed over time. The art of Rollins + K.O.S. has been shown worldwide and is in the permanent collections of more than 70 museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Tate Gallery, London; and the Museum for Gegenwartskunst, Basel. Rollins lives and works in New York City; Tim Rollins + K.O.S. are represented by Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York.
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