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PASSINGS / Ernest Trova

Artist did series on 'Falling Man'

March 12, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ernest Trova, 82, an acclaimed St. Louis artist best known for his "Falling Man" series of works about man at his most imperfect, died Sunday at his home in suburban Richmond Heights, Mo., of congestive heart failure, family spokesman Matt Strauss said.

Trova became prominent in the 1960s with his "Falling Man" paintings, prints and sculpture. The armless human figure, a Chicago Tribune critic wrote in 1978, "is simple but not simple-minded. It can be radically transported and transformed while retaining its essential character -- the character of an anonymous 20th century man alone in his environment."

Created in bronze and stainless steel, the sculptures came to be viewed by many critics as gleaming pop-culture icons rather than successful expressions of contemporary art.

Born Feb. 19, 1927, in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Mo., Trova was a self-taught artist. He worked as a decorator and window dresser for a St. Louis department store until an art collector whose family owned the store began buying Trova's paintings.

A one-person exhibition of Trova's artwork in 1963 inaugurated the Pace Gallery in New York, where he continued to exhibit for more than 20 years.

In 1975, he co-founded Laumeier Sculpture Park with a gift of more than 40 large-scale artworks to St. Louis County.

His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Tate Gallery, among others.

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