A few months ago I posted a story about “Journeys of the Imagination.” A cool statue in the park area between Fidelity Bank’s modern building and the Carnegie Building. One of the other statues that is really quite eye catching is GOX #4. It was created by painter and sculptor Ernest Trova. GOX #4 was a gift to the city from Marvin Bastian and family, owners of Fidelity Bank Association.
Trova was born in Clayton, Missouri on February 19, 1927. He attended Clayton High School and St. Louis University High School. He lost his father at the age of 17. He worked at the Famous-Barr department store as a decorator and window dresser.
When he was 20 years old, he won first place in the Missouri Exhibition with his painting, “Roman Boy.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Strauss, a Trova authority and former Director of White Flag Projects in St. Louis. You can check out their website at etrova.org.
Trova did not like storing his artwork so he made gifts to schools including Wichita State. He gifted about 70 pieces to the Ulrich Museum. Martin Bush was the head of the Ulrich Museum back in the 1970’s. Those pieces were part of a show that toured across the U.S. before returning to Wichita.
Trova’s signature 1960’s creation, the “Falling Man,” was a form of Pop Art. It featured a faceless, armless, person stuck in various poses. Falling Man became Trova’s signature piece. The artist tended to work in series, Strauss explains, “he actually considered his body of work… a work in progress, his favorite comparison was that each piece was equivalent to a single frame in a longer film.“
Trova’s GOX series are designed to be seen from the front, rather than as an all-around sculpture. The title GOX stands for Ge-Ometric eXercises. Trova was a fan of codes and often used them in the titles of his pieces.
If you look closely you can see the figure of a man in the GOX #4 Sculpture. Strauss explains, “you can see at the top the back of the head, in the middle, the stomach, on the back you can see the same lines as the falling man figure. It speaks to his consistency and impulse with his obsession and determination to explore every aspect of expression.” The Wichita piece Strauss explains, “is considered one of the best of the 100 GOX he made. Only 12 or so of the large formats exist.“
Trova died on March 8, 2009 at the age of 82 due to congestive heart failure.
He is somewhat forgotten as an artist because he made a bad business deal. Signing up for representation from an art novice that destroyed his career. Forbes once described it “as one the greatest career collapses in the history of art.”
Trova might not be as well known as other artists from that period, but he is remembered and well represented at Wichita State. Seven of his pieces are part of the Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection. Here is a look at that collection.