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.

Robert Branch: Tim was a Kid of Survival as well.

Angel Abreu: Tim Rollins was from rural Maine, economically downtrodden as well. Tim understood we had to transcend through education. And so, he decided as a very young public school teacher that he would try to engage with students using literature and music as mediums for making art. And so, he started teaching at Intermediate School 52.

Robert Branch: We'd have amazing conversations about the history of art, literature.

Rick Savinon: We would have multiple paintings working at the same time. So, we'd have an Amerika work on one side of our studio, Alice in Wonderland on another, a Moby Dick painting on another wall.

Robert Branch: Typically, an Amerika work would have a theme. For example, in this Amerika, you see there's a railroad track and Tim would then use that kind of visual motif as a way to teach history. And then he would talk about the idiom being from the other side of the railroad track. So, he did this kind of situated meaning and learning with us that was really intense.

Angel Abreu: We had lots of gangs at the time in the South Bronx. And so, to have this moniker, KOS, Kids of Survival, we were kind of like an art gang.

Robert Branch: Tim wasn't born into privilege. But he recognized that, as a white man, he had some. And he took his privilege and he taught us that this privilege is something that also belongs to us, and that we should make work that is life affirming and powerful. Like many members of KOS, I was a student struggling in high school.

Rick Savinon: I met Tim doing a summer program and it was like love at first sight.

Jorge Abreu: It's really elevated who I am as a human being, father, husband, and all that great stuff.

Angel Abreu: It made me be aware of other worlds that I would not have been privy to. It kind of saved my life.

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