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"Studio K.O.S.: The Continuing Legacy of Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival (Selected works from 1987—2020)"

Studio K.O.S. Continues the Legacy of Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival at Wexler Gallery

Last month, Wexler Gallery debuted the exhibition “Studio K.O.S.: The Continuing Legacy of Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival (Selected works from 1987—2020)” at its Philadelphia and New York locations. Celebrating the revival of the art collective, the show, open through March 20, features historical works by the original Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival along with creations from the contemporary practice of the group, now known as Studio K.O.S..

Tim Rollins & KOS Tim Rollins & KOS, “X-Men ’68 – The Devil Had a Daughter!,” 1991/92, Vintage comic book pages on canvas, 38.25 x 33.125 x 1.625 inches; Image by Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich.

Tim Rollins’s pioneering collective began as an after-school program in the 1980s, including a group of his students from the Bronx. It was launched out of frustration with the public school system. Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival—all young people of color living from the impoverished—incorporated literature and art in a group setting, creating works related to the texts they read from their own perspective. Today, those works are still shown at globally.

In 2017, after Rollins’s passing, the role of education was taken on by Studio K.O.S. and members like Angel Abreu, Jorge Abreu, Robert Branch, and Nelson Ricardo Savinon, who have been actively involved since its inception. With the collective’s mission as relevant today as ever, Studio K.O.S. continued Rollins’s undertaking with a workshop in 2020 for Philadelphia high school students who were part of the University Community Collaborative.

Tim Rollins & KOS Tim Rollins & KOS, “X-Men/Malcolm X (After Marvel Comics and Malcolm X),” 1997, Comic book covers on book pages on rag board, 9.13 x 6.02 in each; image by KeneK Photography, courtesy of Wexler Gallery.

“The context of the Black Lives Matter protests and the global pandemic in 2020 served as a valuable backdrop to our work, engaging with texts and thinking alongside students as they navigate turbulent social upheaval, which mirrors our own experience as students under Tim Rollins,” said founding Studio K.O.S. member Angel Abreu. “We view the transference of knowledge as an artistic medium in itself, this collaboration and dialogue are the foundation of K.O.S. In 2020, the information and ideas exchanged with students will unlock potential and offer new roads forward at a pivotal moment in their lives and in our society.”

Titled the “Collaborative Workshops for Transcendence through Art and Knowledge,” Studio K.O.S. invited Philadelphia youths to look at Ralph Ellison’s 1952 publication Invisible Man. As was Rollins’s custom, the group took turns reading passages out loud and held discussions connecting themes from the book, the history of civil rights, and activism today, which lead to the creation of an artwork.

Installation view, “Studio K.O.S.: The Continuing Legacy of Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival (Selected works from 1987—2020),” photo by Josh Gaddy Photography, courtesy of Wexler Gallery.

At Wexler Gallery’s two locations is the resulting video work, titled Invisible Man (after Ellison), which utilizes the powers of the digital age to draw lines through history, connecting past events to the students’ current context. Alongside it, viewers will find works by Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival from the last three decades, made incorporating pages from sheet music, books, or comics—like the 1991/92 X-Men ’68 – The Devil Had a Daughter!, Metamorphosen (after Richard Strauss) from 2007, and the namesake for the video work, the 62 x 52 inches canvas Invisible Man (after Ellison) from 1998. “We are thrilled to be a partner with Studio K.O.S. for this next chapter of such a renowned art collective,” said gallery founders, Lewis Wexler and Sherri Apter Wexler. “Studio K.O.S.’s work feels as vital and urgent today as it did 30 years ago. Art can and must play a role in helping young adults find their voice during turbulent social moments in time. America’s future depends on the voice of our next generation.”

Tim Rollins & KOS Tim Rollins & KOS, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream (after Shakespeare and Mendelssohn),” 2016-17 Watercolor, ink, mulberry paper, collage, and mustard seed on music score on wood panel, 12 x 9 inches; Image by KeneK Photography, courtesy of Wexler Gallery.

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