Tim Rollins and K.O.S.

Some high-school classes read the great books, but at Intermediate School No. 52 in the South Bronx, they paint over them. Texts by Malcolm X, Stephen Crane, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley, Ralph Ellison, Franz Kafka, and others are torn from their bindings, arranged in collages, whitewashed, and adorned with ribbons in the survey show Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History. Artist/instructor Rollins took his post in 1981, then later moved the workshop—with its constantly changing crew of at-risk teens—to Chelsea, where they became gallery darlings, the children of Basquiat. He doesn’t individually sign their work, which tends to be large and bright, swiftly apprehensible like graffiti on a moving subway car—anything but academic. It’s unclear how much he suggests and they execute, who has final say in the atelier. In a companion video, Rollins tells his pupils “don’t illustrate these text” but to instead find “a visual correspondence.” With about two dozen works grouped in two galleries, the effect is both hopeful—when many schools are cutting their arts budges—and limited. You want to know what became of these nameless teens, how many are still creating art today, if their lives were really changed by their tutelage. Some questions are answered in a companion book, written New York curator Ian Berry, available with other materials in a study room. But that’s only reading, not painting. BRIAN MILLER

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, 12-5 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 23. Continues through May 31, 2010

 
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