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Tim Rollins

Kids of Survival (K.O.S.)

Study for Amerika-A Refuge


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In 1981 the artist Tim Rollins developed a curriculum for Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx that incorporated art-making with reading and writing for students classified as academically and emotionally at risk. Rollins and his group of young artists known as K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) followed a collaborative process of “educating by art making.” Rather than reading books as received knowledge, Rollins and K.O.S. painted directly on texts, creating works that actualized their learning experience. These works are studies made by individual K.O.S. members for a series of larger paintings based on Franz Kafka’s incomplete first novel Amerika. Written between 1912 and 1914 and published posthumously in 1927, Amerika follows teenager Karl Rossmann as he is banished from his home in Prague and sent to New York City, where he suffers one ordeal after another. In the unfinished final chapter, Rossman finds a job with a mysterious and surreal Midwestern traveling theater, where he encounters hundreds of women dressed as angels playing golden horns. Prompted by this passage, Rollins and the K.O.S. members imagined a variety of golden horns informed by such diverse sources as human anatomy manuals, comic books, popular films, and paintings. FA18 (Common Read)

  • Artist Tim Rollins (American, 1955–2017)
    Kids of Survival (K.O.S.) (American artists’ collective, formed 1982)
  • Title Study for Amerika-A Refuge
  • Date 1991
  • Medium Watercolor and pencil on book page
  • Dimensions unframed | 8 x 5 1/4 in.
  • Credit line University purchase with funds from Nathan Cummings, by exchange, 1992
  • Object number WU 1992.13

Teaching Gallery exhibition
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 01/23/2004 - 03/28/2004

The Dual Muse: The Writer as Artist; the Artist as Writer
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 11/07/1997 - 12/21/1997

Twentieth Century Art from the Washington University Collection
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 01/28/1994 - 03/27/1994

Schmidt Contemporary Art

Inscription Verso, lower center, in graphite: For Amerika-A Refuge / TR & K.O.S. / South Bronx 1991

Inscription Verso, along top edge, in graphite: 10

and if you want to ask hi[m] [text covered] thing you have to wait for / a long time. He‘ [text covered] the Head Waiter / and the Ma[?]ge [text covered] ial one. He’s cer- / tainly not dismis [text covered] aid he was. How / can he be dismissed? I got [text covered] rt in the hotel, and he had / instructions to take me ho [text covered] ince he wasn’t wearing his / jacket at the time he just c [text covered] but it. I couldn’t wait until / he fetched his jacket.“ // “Well now,” said Dela [text covered] preading out his arms, in a / tone which reproached th [text covered] an for his lack of discern- / ment; and these two wore [text covered] seemed to bring an incon- / testable clarity i [text covered] n’s statement. // “But is this tru [text covered] eady weakening. / “And if it is tr [text covered] out that he is / dismissed?” // “You’d better tell him,” [text covered] amarche. // Karl looked at the pol [text covered] whose task it was to keep / order here among strange [text covered] ng only of their own ad- / vantage, and he had some [text covered] of the man’s difficulties. / That made him unwilling [text covered] lie, so he kept his hands / tightly clasped behind his [text covered] / In the house-d [text covered] clapped his hands / as a signal that th [text covered] rk again. They / shook the ground [text covered] d, falling silent / drifted reluctantly through [text covered] way. // “We’ll never come to a [text covered] this way,” said the police- / man, and he made to seize [text covered] he arm. Karl involuntarily / recoiled a little, became co [text covered] the free space at his back / which the porters‘ departu [text covered] t open, turned about and / with a few great bounds [text covered] set off at full speed. The / children let out a single y [text covered] ith outstretched arms ran / a few steps along with him [text covered]

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