Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s

Feb 11–Jun 3, 2012

Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (American, b. 1955)
Amerika VIII, 1986–87
Watercolor, charcoal, synthetic polymer paint, and graphite on book pages on linen
The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Jerry I. Speyer Fund and Robert and Meryl Meltzer Fund, 30.1988
In 1982, artist Tim Rollins began working in collaboration with a group of students called the Kids of Survival, or K.O.S. The partnership grew out of Rollins’s work as an art teacher at a public school in New York’s South Bronx, where he developed a curriculum that incorporated art appreciation and exposure to major works of literature. The students collectively produced works of art inspired by canonical texts that were read aloud, including Franz Kafka’s (Austro-Hungarian, 1883–1924) posthumously published novel Amerika (1927). These works were executed on top of pages torn from the students’ books, with the printed word creating what Rollins called a “historical screen” on which the students could project their own interpretations. In this take on Amerika’s final chapter, the exuberant frieze of interlocking musical instruments implies harmonious inclusion, but the impossibly narrowing ladder suggests that this ideal may not be universally achievable.