Tim Rollins and K.O.S. in 1988.

Tim Rollins (1955–2017)

The artist Tim Rollins, who is best known for his work with the collective K.O.S. (Kids of Survival), has died at age sixty-two. He died of natural causes, according to the members of K.O.S.

Rollins, who was born in Pittsfield, Maine, studied at the University of Maine before earning his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1980. There he met some of the future members of the collective Group Material, which he cofounded with Julie Ault and Mundy McLoughlin. Rollins was just twenty-six when he began teaching at Intermediate School 52 in the Bronx, where he developed the program that would result in K.O.S. He then founded the Art and Knowledge Workshop, an after-school program for students passionate about art. He and the students who became members of K.O.S. there began the process of “jammin’,’” merging pages from the texts they were reading into their artworks.

Rollins and K.O.S.’s work was featured in the 1985 Whitney Biennial and solo exhibitions in 1986 at Jay Gorney Modern Art in the East Village and Fashion Moda in the Bronx. Institutional shows then followed, including solo exhibitions at the Walker Art Center (1988), the Dia Art Foundation (1989), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1990), and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (1992).

K.O.S. tallies more than fifty former members and five current members, according to the London gallery Maureen Paley: Angel Abreu, Jorge Abreu, Robert Branch, Daniel Castillo, and Ricardo Savinon.

In 2014 Rollins told Studio International’s Lilly Wei: “The great Jane Addams, the Chicago social activist, had a notion of democratic aesthetics . . . it’s like a community choir and people get together. Some sing like Aretha Franklin and some do not, but everyone is allowed to be in the choir and everyone’s voices are raised in unison in one common song. That’s the spirit of this group.”