Photo: University Archives, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University
The following is re-printed with permission by the New Orleans Museum of Art from the 1994 exhibition catalogue Pat Trivigno: the Search for Inner Form.
My first memory of paintings by Pat Trivigno is of the series called Destin in a mid-1960 exhibition at the Newcomb Art Department a year or two after I joined the faculty. The memory is of a fairly large, essentially abstract, paintings, most dark but with glowing orbs of orange-red color; the texture of the surfaces was fine but as if with an underlay of color. I had never heard of the beaches in Destin, in Florida, nor have I yet been there, but if and when I do go there I sense that for me nature will imitate art and I will recognize the sense of brilliant color that apparently washes over the place at dusk or dawn, a sense that he encapsulated in this series.
I did not know then that these marked a transition from earlier more representational works, and a beginning of a period, which lasted ten or twelve years, of very abstract and geometrical forms. In moving from representational to more abstract forms Pat was sharing in and following a pattern taking place on a national scale. And yet, as I have seen Pat's work evolve and change during the subsequent decades it must be said that, however much his work parallels trends elsewhere, he always marches to his own drummer.
If I were to try to sum up consistent qualities in Pat's work, I would say a sense of order, brilliant often slightly acid colors, fine craftsmanship and disciplined technique, and always, an underlying sense of an analytical mind at work. For all the discipline, there is a sense of strong emotional intensity, sometimes latent, sometimes overt.
The next group show I recall was of considerably more abstract work. I don't remember if it was one particular painting, or simply that he mentioned it at the time, but the tag, Palladio, remains in my mind. This time bright greens and blues, against darker backgrounds, are what I recall. In talking about his work, Pat cites an influence that is of his long-time love of the austere elegance of the great Renaissance artist, Piero della Francesca, an artist who had a passion for geometry and precision. It was also obvious that Pat knew and loved the complex order of the building by the late-Renaissance architect, Palladio. I think of the illustrations in Rudolf Wittkower's book, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, which was published and republished in the late 1950a, the 1960s and 1970s, and was required reading for all art history graduate students of that generation. In it the proportions of Palladio's buildings, equated to musical harmonies of the universe, were analyzed and shown diagrammatically.
This was still when abstract expressionism dominated, with the emphasis on the emotional and gestural, but here was Pat doing work, abstract to be sure, but work of controlled and balanced geometric forms, emotional only in the intensity of color breaking through, nor was it tricky Op Art. I don't begin to understand the technical side of Pat's work, but in both the Destin series and in what I call the Palladio group have always had an impression of an almost silky surface that is the result of a complex application of colors and glazes. Many paintings by some of the well-known abstract expressionists are already disintegrating because of sloppy craftsmanship. This will not be the fate of Pat's work.
And then his work took on a still larger scale. This was around 1978 with another of his infrequent shows in the Newcomb Gallery. There was one in particular, mostly in gradations of greens, with a succession of geometric fan-like forms swooping across the canvas. This was emotion of a more overt kind. Geometric, disciplined, but moving.
These seem to have led back to or once again to Destin and to the works shown in the 1983 exhibit at the Academy Gallery on Magazine Street. This was back to nature, and to the semi-tropical environment of the area. I recall especially two paintings, each of a great fluttering flurry of egret wings, one in blues and greens, and one in a red-orange range, with touches of blues and blacks. The condensed precision of the earlier paintings was still there, but now flowing. This time there was a catalog with a text by his friend and one-time Newcomb fellow faculty member, John Canaday. I do not recall as well several of the intricate paintings of branches and roots showing the same show, but the reproductions remind me that Pat frequently taught an advanced seminar in drawing in which I recall his students telling me, close observation, among other things, was stressed.
More recently, in November 1990, his show at Galerie Simone Stern featured panoramic views of Italian buildings and ruins. Arguably, back to Palladio, but this time, in a fresh and semi-realistic guise, formal and bold, repetitious geometric forms based on the buildings themselves, somewhat generalized but based on sequences of photographs which he had taken. Just as in the first and second Destin series, these represent a response to places, European places and concepts with which he is familiar from several stints of living and painting in Italy.
During a recent visit to Pat's spacious studio on Marengo Street in New Orleans I was surprised, and perhaps not surprised, at his current paintings. As will be seen in this exhibition, they, on the one hand, reflect another place which is familiar to him from former and recent visits-the ancient ruins of the Maya in Mexico. There is a totemic, religious, ritualistic quality to these, catching the recurring patterning of the glyphs seen in the architectural sculpture there, but heightened by the intense colors drawn from his own imagination. In talking to him about these, and about his career, I was surprised to learn that with these as well, though like nothing else he or any other artist has done, there is an internal consistency. Some of his pre-1960 work, unfamiliar to me, dealt with religious imager, especially Gothic. As I think about Pat's work familiar to me through the last three decades, I can see a kind of circular development. Certain themes or ways of approaching artistic problems recur; he may focus on one aspect for a while, then another; he will then return to an earlier theme, but with a new and different interpretation. The sense of the analytical mind, the controlled forms and the disciplined emotion are all there-continuities I keep seeing in his work through the years.
October 27, 1993
[Jessie Poesch, "A Tribute to Pat Trivigno" from exhibition catalogue "Pat Trivigno: the Search for Inner Form," The New Orleans Museum of Art:, R.2013.1]
Tulane University, Newcomb Art Dept., 202 Woldenberg Art Center, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5327 firstname.lastname@example.org