I never knew the artist Tim Rollins, but for many reasons, I think about him all the time. Maybe it’s because Tim once described himself as “a Conceptual artist whose medium is teaching,” and I am a teacher who loves Conceptual art.  Or perhaps it’s because before he established the Art and Knowledge Workshop and formed K.O.S., he cofounded alongside Julie Ault and many others the influential artist collective Group Material. 
Or maybe I think about Tim Rollins all the time because he said, “The making of the work is the pedagogy” and I want to believe that is the truth.  I might think about him more today than I did when he was alive because when I watch the documentaries about him and K.O.S., I still can’t get over the fact that in a culturally divided moment so similar to the one we are currently in, back in the 90s, Rollins addressed his male students as “papo,” a term of endearment typically exchanged between Latino men. 
From Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History, edited by Ian Berry, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, MIT Press, 2009. Cover photograph by Lisa Kahane © 1987.
Or maybe it’s because when I revisit the booklet Triple Canopy published, In Praise of Julie Ault, Rollins’ contribution (is it a poem?) is one I often return to when I want to think about friendship and all the creative possibilities contained therein.
There are so many reasons to think about Tim Rollins.
Left: Program cover for Tim Rollins Memorial, April 30, 2018 with photo by Angel Zimick. Right: Excerpt from In Praise of Julie Ault, a booklet commissioned and published by Triple Canopy on the occasion of their 2016 benefit honoring Julie Ault.
Last April, several months after he had passed away on December 22, 2017, I attended Rollins’s memorial at SVA Theatre off 23rd Street in Manhattan (fitting perhaps in that Rollins graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1977).  Since I didn’t know the artist personally and I was interested in learning more about him, I thought I might go under the auspices of “research”; however, I also wanted to pay my respects: You just can’t talk about the visual cultures of the Bronx without somehow also talking about the work Rollins did with K.O.S., the student artist collective he began working with in the 1980s.
Tim Rollins + K.O.S., Untitled (Bricks), 1980, Tempera, acrylic on found brick. Gift of Tim Rollins to Julie Ault, 1980. Macho Man, Tell It To My Heart: Collected by Julie Ault, Artists Space, 2013.
One of my favorite works is Untitled (Bricks). Rollins assigned students of I.S. 52 in the South Bronx with the task of scouring an abandoned lot across the street in search of some object that they could reclaim as their own. One of the children found a brick and, upon returning to the classroom, decided to paint it as though it were a building on fire.
It must have been a real moment for Rollins that day because he gathered the rest of the students and returned to the lot; more bricks were collected, painted, and transformed into little burning tenements. They then sold their bricks for five dollars apiece at the A. More Store, a pop-up artist shop run by the artist collective Colab. In 1984, some of the bricks were exhibited at Fashion Moda (although I wouldn’t see them for the first time until years later as part of the show Macho Man: Tell It to My Heart, curated by Julie Ault). A colorful exhibition photograph of the bricks’ early appearance at Fashion Moda taken by Lisa Kahane and reprinted in Ian Berry’s Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History, stands out—on one level, it passes for a pretty straightforward exhibition shot, but beyond that, it also captures the spirit of Fashion Moda as an experimental arts space, Rollins’s playful pedagogy and, of course, the creative energy of the South Bronx.
A. More Store, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., The Bricks (Remember), Flyer, 1983. Courtesy of James Fuentes.
These bricks, which, to use the words of one critic, were “salvaged from ubiquitous rubble that littered their neighborhood and painted to look like the flaming buildings from which they had come,” were K.O.S.’s first publicly exhibited sculpture. Therefore, K.O.S. was born in the Bronx. While K.O.S. stands for Kids of Survival, apparently one of the kids identified with the moniker because it sounded kind of like CHAOS.
Untitled (Bricks), 1982-83, Tempera, acrylic on found brick. Collection of Peter Stern, courtesy of the artists and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York; Courtesy of Brook Alexander; Collection of David Deitcher; Collection of artists, Installation view, ICA Philadelphia, 2009. From Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History, edited by Ian Berry, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, MIT Press, 2009.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed Brooke Alexander is currently selling one of these bricks, so on the off-chance you’ve got a spare $1200 . . . you know where to find me.
Te saluto, Tim, and to the remaining members of K.O.S., I’m excited for what’s to come.
Tim Rollins & K.O.S., Untitled (Brick), 1983, Acrylic on found brick, 8 1/16 x 3 7/8 x 2 3/4 inches. Courtesy of Brooke Alexander.
 Kim Levin, "Studio Visits," Mirabella, September 1989, p. 96.
 See Show & Tell: A Chronicle of Group Material, ed. Julie Ault (London: Four Corners Books, 2010).
 Julie Ault, “Tim Rollins (1955–2017)” Artforum, March 2018.
 See Kids of Survival: The Art and Life of Tim Rollins & K.O.S., directed by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, 1996.
 Angel Abreu, “Tim Rollins and K.O.S.,” The Paris Review, last modified May 24, 2019, https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/05/24/tim-rollins-and-k-o-s/.