Made in New York

Tim Rollins, K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) with Angel Abreu, Jose Burges, Robert Delgado, George Garces, Richard Lulo, Nelson Montes, José Parissi, Carlos Rivera, Annette Rosado, Nelson Ricardo Savinon. Amerika VIII. 1986-87

Watercolor, charcoal, and pencil on bookpages on linen, 69 1/8" x 14' (175.6 x 426.7 cm). Jerry I. Speyer Fund and Robert and Meryl Meltzer Fund. © 2021 Tim Rollins and K.O.S.

Angel Abreu: My name is Angel Abreu. I grew up in the South Bronx, where K.O.S. was founded.

Jorge Abreu: Jorge Abreu.

Rick Savinon: My name is Rick Savinon.

Robert Branch: Robert Branch. I have been a member of Tim Rollins and K.O.S. since I was 15, 16 years old.

Angel Abreu: This was actually one of the first works that I worked on as a 13-year-old. It's book pages laid on canvas. We dissect these books that resonate with us in some way. And so, for this, we used Franz Kafka's Amerika.

Rick Savinon: There's a chapter where the protagonist, he comes from Europe to America, thinking that the streets are paved of gold and goes through a lot of misfortunes and decides I'm outta’ here. I don't want to be here in America. And all of a sudden he hears these horns. And I think Tim found that chapter so interesting because it gives the notion that everyone can be an artist. And, so, Tim would tell us if you wanted to represent yourself as an individual, what does your horn look like?

Robert Branch: You come in after school and students would do drawings.

Rick Savinon: The first thing you hear down the hallway is music.

Angel Abreu: Hip hop music from the time—Afrika Bambaataa, KRS-One.

Rick Savinon: We had these jam sessions where we just, like, try to blow each other out of the water and see who'd had the best horns. Some members would draw 50 to 100 horns, but only, maybe, two would represent them in the painting.

Robert Branch: And then we would take those drawings, putting on acetate sheets and then putting it on an overhead projector and composing them.

Jorge Abreu: And once you put these pieces together on top of one another, it's pretty fantastic. Everyone learns how to play their role. You can't just come in and think that you're gonna jump on a painting.

Rick Savinon: It's like a jazz band where I play the guitar, somebody else is playing the drums. And at times other people kind of go off in their own rhythm, but then come back together in order to become one. And the paintings deliver that voice of the group.

Angel Abreu: A lot of people back then would say, well, aren't you desecrating these books by pulling them apart? And I would say, no, we're making new work. And we're collaborating with these authors.

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