In this day and age it seems almost archaic to initially write this out by hand, but in recognition of Sam Trioli’s exhibition S., partially paying tribute to Harry S. Truman’s correspondence to his wife (circa 1945), it seems fitting to do so. I’ve got my pad of paper at my desk, sitting in my 10’x12’ rustic, shingled weekend cottage (also circa 1945) in N. Truro, a tiny town nestled on Cape Cod between Provincetown and Wellfleet. The ocean is on one side, the bay close by on the other. The area is known for its summers and its art, so often reminiscent of Hoffman or Hopper.
As a boy, Sam Trioli spent summers on the Cape enjoying its attributes and returns with an exceptional exhibition at Farm Project Space + Gallery, a well thought out, delightful anomaly of a gallery in Wellfleet, MA run by Susie Nielsen.
Comingled in this visual commentary of a very complex time period, is Trioli’s annotation in what has been a lighter controversial issue on the grammatical period (or the absence of) after Truman’s middle initial.
The exhibitions title, S. address’s the historical nature and quandary over Harry S. Truman’s middle initial. Trioli writes “Unable to decide on an actual (middle) name, his parents gave him the middle initial S to honor and please his Grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. Until Truman became president he in fact did not use a period after his middle initial” He goes on to explain that when he became President, he was advised to use proper grammar from the editors of the Chicago Style Manual.
Grammatical controversy may seem trivial in the overall scheme of that trepidatious time period, yet in this context it adds a layer of personal identity to what Trioli’s larger focus is: a contemporary narrative on a powerful mans very human condition of pendent contemplation, correspondence and the decisions that follow.
Trioli’s visual narration initially presents as if a distant relative had gone through attic-boxes of old snapshots. Yet looking closer, his commentary on the aspects of personal and global interaction augments the larger consideration of its relationship between its personal and historical depth, weight and consequences. Conceptually, these bits of love letters from Truman to his wife, the maps and portraits, document the mood of 1945. Cogently separating Trioli’s two large portraits of Truman and his wife Bess is a noticeably inaudible, great portrait of abolishable devastation: the bomb.
The effectiveness of the tonal portraits are a testament to Trioli’s ability to patiently handle both the addition and removal of thin layers of oil on canvas, beautifully producing both a painterly and photo-realistic contrast to the more contemporary works so eloquently placed in the exhibition.
With “Truman Letters I – V” Trioli utilizes telling lines from Truman’s letters to his wife Bess in suggestive works implicative of lightweight, silvery embers seeming to have fallen ever so infinitely from the apocalyptic atomic-era sky. Then, years later, as if found by Trioli, delicately placed on panel for us to reflect and ponder. “Pray for me and keep your fingers crossed too,” Truman writes.
S. is a careful exhibition that needs to be read literally and conceptually, tragically and lovingly in order to fully appreciate the delicacy in which Trioli so thoughtfully and skillfully presents it to us.
Writing by Tim Donovan
Tim Donovan is an artist and curator. He spends his time between New York, New Hampshire and Cape Cod.
Photography provided by the gallery and the artist.