Monday, January 25, 2010

Tim Rollins and K.O.S. / Frye Art Museum

From the Animal Farm: Jesse Helms (after George Orwell), 1987
Graphite and acrylic on book pages mounted on canvas.
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich.

"To dare to make history when you are young, when you are a minority, when you are working, or nonworking class, when you are voiceless in society, takes courage." - Tim Rollins

Tim Rollins and K.O.S. just opened up at the Frye. This show was unexpectedly touching. The ability of art to give people a voice is always a compelling topic.

Tim Rollins was an educator and K.O.S. (kids of survival) was the group of "at-risk" youth he taught. Frustrated with the traditional models of education, Rollins decided to take a new approach and opened up an after-school program where student read important texts and made art. "Today we are going to make art, but we are also going to make history." He was right and they had lots of success - including an Artforum cover and inclusion in 2 Whitney Biennials and several other important shows. NYT critic Roberta Smith said, "With Rollin's guidance, these students are producing artwork of a remarkable sophistication, which refuses to conform to known categories but alternates between the literary and the visual, the modern and the naive."

K.O.S. members at work

Former student, Angel Abreu said that Rollins was a kindred spirit of his students in the sense that they were all economically disadvantaged. Rollins quickly earned their trust. For an early project, bricks were collected by the students from their neighborhood and then they painted portraits of their homes on them. The bricks exhibited are all on fire.

photo by Karla Glanzman

This show was curated by Ian Berry, Malloy Curator, along with the artists, and was coordinated for the Frye by Robin Held, Deputy Director 0f Exhibitions and Collections. This is the third and final stop (Tang Museum, ICA in Philadelphia and here). I asked Robin how it ended up here. She mentioned that she and Ian have worked together before and that Ian saw similar energy in Seattle. To build on that synergy, the Frye put together a show called The Seattle Project.

The Seattle Project is actually three separate exhibits. I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me is a show curated by Art Corps students and teaching artists Roberto Ascalon and Amos Miller. The students dug through the Frye's permanent collection and created musical responses to it. Public Belongings is an exhibition of photographs, videos and poems by ten (formerly homeless) adults working with Path with Art. In the museum gift shop, The Center School Connection is an installation of merchandise designed by students. Teacher Wyn Pottinger-Levy led her class through the process taking an idea and turning it into a product. Hand-screened tshirts, Sin guitar picks, Chief Sealth patches and other cool stuff is all for sale.

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