Trova was born on February 19, 1927 in Clayton, Missouri, where he attended Clayton High School and St. Louis University High School. His father, an industrial tool designer and inventor, died shortly after Trova graduated from high school.
His interest in poetry led him to begin a correspondence with Ezra Pound, who had been confined to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. after World War II.
He lived in the St. Louis area his entire life.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 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 moveable sculpture, both electronic and hand driven. After the Bi-centennial, many of the pieces were then shipped to the Face 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.
A major exhibit of Trova's works was presented in 1969 at the Pace Gallery, with reviewer Hilton Kramer of The New York Times calling it one whose size and scope "befits an artist currently enjoying a huge success". Kramer noted the recurrence of a theme in Trova's work, as exemplified by his Falling Man variations, stating that "All artists have a tendency to fall in love with their own symbols, and this is certainly the case with Mr. Trova". The exhibit included a "faceless, armless, polished, unsexed" symbolic figure that was presented in varying poses, and in a range of materials including chrome-plated bronze, enameled aluminum, marble and nickel.
Now covering 105 acres (42 ha), what is now known as Laumeier Sculpture Park opened to the public in 1975. Trova agreed to donate 40 of his large sculptures to help establish the park's collection of outdoor sculptures. Trova's dealer at the Pace Galley approved of the arrangement, which were contributed upon a formal agreement signed on December 11, 1975.
Despite his early successes, Trova's later constructivist abstract sculptures attracted little critical attention outside of St. Louis.