Peter Busa

American, 1914 - 1985

Peter Busa was born in 1914, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied architecture and art at Carnegie Institute of Technology. He moved to New York and began studying under Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League in a class that included Jackson Pollock. Busa also studied with Hans Hofmann.

Busa’s friendships with Stuart Davis and Arshile Gorky had a profound influence on his art — both artists shifted his focus from the eastern tradition and opened his eyes to new ideas about authenticity in art. Throughout the 1930s, events including ethnographic museum exhibitions and the publication of John D. Graham’s System and Dialectics in Artfed Busa’s interest in universal themes and primitive culture — an interest shared by many Abstract Expressionists.

Busa became particularly fascinated with Native American art and culture and emerged as a leading member of the group of abstract artists known as Indian Space Painters who were active in the 1940s and 1950s. “Indian Space” describes a brightly colored pictorial language of flat, all-over patterns combining geometric and organic forms. Many of the Indian Space artists coalesced around Gallery Neuf, which mounted a 1946 exhibition titled “8 and a Totem Pole.” That year, Busa showed work at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery, Art of This Century.

During the 1960s and 1970, Busa explored other forms of abstraction, but he revisited Indian Space ideas in the 1980s. He died in Minneapolis in 1985.

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