Known for his Falling Man series in abstract figural sculpture, he created hard-edge images that brought him widespread attention because they seem to strike a chord of empathy with viewers who recognized themselves as human beings challenged by a technological society. Also, they are the only creatures aware of their mortality. He is considered highly innovative because of his successful combining of technological methods to create his art.
Interpretation as to overall meanings vary with some thinking that it refers to the fall of man in the religious sense and others seeing it as a commentary on the tragic mechanization of society that reduces human beings. Trova has said that “falling” refers to the fact that man moves from one position to the next in an eventual fall to inevitable oblivion” (Kultermann 11).
He has lived his entire life in St. Louis, Missouri although his reputation is nationwide. He did not think it necessary to study art because he believed in his own instincts, although he drew from a variety of sources including figurative painters such as Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet, and Willem DeKooning.
The Falling Man series resulted from a unique offer from the Famous-Barr Department Store in St. Louis, where he had worked as a window decorator in his twenties. Store personnel told him that in exchange for creating a series of works to exhibit at the city’s 1964 bicentennial celebration, he could have unlimited access to the store’s materials and workers. The store’s display department was a great setting for him to be creative with his interest in Pop Art, and this project gave him assembly-line assistance of carpenters, electricians, and painters.
The result was that all images had Falling Man figures, and this included paintings, assemblages, collages, and movable sculpture, both electronic and hand driven. After the Bi-centennial, many of the pieces were then shipped to the Pace Gallery in New York City and received critical acclaim.
Of his technique, he has explained that he first creates a cardboard model and then works from there, often making it life size. He is much more interested in variations of shape and form rather than color.
Ernest Tino Trova died at his home in Richmond Heights, near St. Louis, Missouri on March 8, 2009 at the age of 82. (Obituary.New York Times March 13, 2009.)