New York

Ernest Trova

The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

The protagonists in Ernest Trova’s “Falling Man Series” were highly polished metal mannequins moving resignedly through a programmed journey into oblivion. In the new “Poet/Table Figure Series,” the protagonists have assumed a radically different form though they act out a similar theme. Like the image of the “falling man,” the small pocky sheet metal silhouettes in this new series (which have been welded singly or paired inside various architectural stage settings), are likewise caught in an artificial, delimiting system. The major difference between the two series lies in the gestural, spatial and hence philosophical attitude to the unchangeable members of Trova’s system; while the “falling” automata blindly cooperated with the apparatus of control, the “poets” in the recent work have assumed an attitude of almost intellectual repose while engaging in a dynamic symbiosis with their jailers. Their animation is drawn from the very arches, columns, platforms and stairs which frame them, the chairs of which they are a structural part, the sometimes humorous markings imposed upon them—punched holes or an irrational line of wire or by what has been set before them for contemplation: a table strewn with mysterious geometric forms or a cluster of metal rods resting on a metal bed. These are tangible expressions of limitations to understanding which, somehow through the figures who lean forward in eagerness, seem to promise epiphany. What is revealed here is not knowledge, but unending yearning.

Although Trova’s message has not undergone any major change, the element which warrants greatest scrutiny and appreciation is that which has had the greatest formal alteration, namely the image of man and his placement in an architectural setting. The “fallen” men of the earlier series, those perfect, smooth-skinned robots were caught in a process; the pitted and scarred figures here are caught in a saga, a drama, a tragedy perhaps, and architecture serves the drama eminently well. It is the art whose heartbeat is in tune with the gradual deterioration of its materials rather than the life-spans of the men who inhabit it.

Rather than imagining the future—the inevitable—as he did so starkly in the earlier work, Trova’s new series is like the school of science fiction which takes place in the future, yet borrows from the verbal and visual vocabulary of the mythic past. The poets he depicts are not futuristically-styled totems. Through the dungeon grey of the metal and an almost medieval sense of isolation comes a mythos of antiquity which serves to unite the poet Ezra Pound, whose profile is recognizable in the figure of Table Series #2, with musers and heroes of the past, all of whom, with dignity, endeavor to find rest in the human condition. The seated silhouettes lend as much support to the chair as it does them. And so it is of the poet, the player in these sculptures, whose vulnerability in the system of things is outweighed by the desire to find power in it.

Judith Lopes Cardozo