- Talbot Rice Gallery
American participatory socially-engaged collective Tim Rollins & K.O.S are like art hip hop superstars, a troupe of painterly scorching showmen Beastie Boys, a Conceptual art, Appropriation Art Group Material-borne set of Globetrotters, a spiritual America adorned with the ghosts of Mark Twain, Malcolm X, Ralph Ellison and Martin Luther King Jnr and Evangelism, gospel, jazz and disco: mighty beat-box Queer Black Latino art magicians. They constitute an American hyper-text, to the five boroughs, and particularly the South Bronx, and riding a New York subway line, Trans-America Express that takes in spiritual metamorphoses, historical-social motives and motifs, a cannon of Classic texts, Shakespeare, HG Wells, Franz Kafka, and comic books, Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr Seuss, and inspired by the age of Jazz all drawn on, remixed, ‘make and made’ more beautiful, more real, more dazzling. American Dream-time pioneers: “Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten, From the Battery to the top of Manhattan, Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin, Black, White, New York you make it happen!”
The Black Spot, the collective’s new exhibition for Talbot Rice Gallery for Edinburgh Art Festival 2012, is a summons and a sermon from this body of work that stretches back 30 years to a gymnasium in a middle school in New York, that has traversed the globe in Art and Knowledge workshops straight to the heart of heartless contemporary art: Frieze, the Whitney, ICA, Philadelphia, Museum of Modern Art and insisted, insisting, an insistence that education as material and subject in art is its physical, mental and intellectual theoretical trajectory and therein lies its history, impact and longevity. “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”
And it is so beautifully rendered: A Midsummer’s Night Dream, blotches of multiple colour flows on Shakespeare’s texts, hybrid brown White House beasts in pastorals on Orwell’s Animal Farm, white-on-white Invisible Man on Ralph Ellison, and the V,I,C, T taken out of victim, in honour of a murdered K.O.S member. Spiritual, and moving and emotional and real.
The Black Spot from Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island resonates with the ghosts of these museum’s walls, this academy and the collective’s shout outs to history, and shaping history and the voices and words that make that history alive, political, potent. It’s an accusation and an invitation, explicit in its determination that art can change the world. A timely adventure, in an era of survival mode and austerity, evidence that art is the enemy of death, the contradiction of apathy.