By Rebecca Pikus
Peter Busa (1914-1985) was known for his Abstract Expressionist art, and “Indian Space Paintings”. Busa was a truly original thinker, and a pioneer of modern art. This brilliant artist came out of what was called The New York School. This was an informal group of American painters, poets, dancers, and musicians active in the 1950s & 1960s in New York City. They often drew inspiration from Surrealism and the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular action painting, abstract expressionism, jazz, improvisational theater, and experimental music.
Though difficult to categorize, Busa’s work was clearly influenced by his close associations with Matta, Pollock, Motherwell, Baziotes, Kamrowski, and Hofmann. His early work is of two types. The first was based on the technique of the Surrealists. The paintings of this type rely heavily on poured or dripped paint and date from the mid-forties typically. The second type of painting was more geometric -often angular- and these paintings were heavily influenced by Native American design motifs. These are commonly referred to as “Indian Space paintings.” Busa’s Indian Space paintings date from the late thirties to the late fifties.
In his introduction to the catalogue for Peter Busa’s 50 year retrospective exhibition: “Life Colors Art”, Robert Metzger summarized Busa’s career by saying: “…Busa has presented problems for…art historians since his highly original and diverse body of work and his mastery of styles…have made him difficult to pigeonhole. His expansive repertory of forms defies translation into verbal language for they reveal truths which cannot be expressed in words. …”
Peter Busa studied at the Art Students League in NYC with Thomas Benton in the same class as Jackson Pollock, and in 1935 he began studies with Hans Hofmann both in New York and in Provincetown. In 1938-39, Busa made many visits to the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian with his friends Steve Wheeler, Will Barnet, and Robert Barrell. In writing about artisans of these earlier cultures, Busa commented, “There was a genuine love for economy of forms and unfettered simplicity of direct statement… the structure of the space reflected by American Indian art was all-positive, without negative space.” Peter Busa’s work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC, and The Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC.
Peter Busa: “Visually Speaking – Color & Light”. REBECCA FINE ART GALLERY, 68895 Perez Rd, #7, Cathedral City, Ca 92234 – (760) 534-5888 – Online Gallery: Fineartvortex.com – Ongoing Exhibit – Gallery open Wed-Sat, 11am-4pm or By Appointment