Artist Biography: Peter Busa

Peter Busa

Carnegie Institute of Technology, with Simboli, Rosenberg, Kostello, Benton
Art Students League
Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art

College Art Association of America
Artists Equity Association (president, Minnesota Chapter, 1962-65)
Art Students League

Teaching Appointments
1945-1953 New York University
1945-1954 Cooper Union
1954-1957 State University of New York at Buffalo
1960-1983 University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Selected Exhibitions
1939 Worlds Fair, “American Art Today,” New York, NY
1940 Art Institute of Chicago
1943 Art of This Century, New York, NY
1944 Ashby Gallery, “Colors Plays a Part,” New York, NY
1945 Art of This Century, “Autumn Salon,” New York, NY
Ashby Gallery, “Ashby, Busa, Cavallon,” New York, NY
1946 Art of this Century, New York, NY (SOLO)
Gallery Neuf, “8 and the Totem Pole,” New York, NY
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, PA
Whitney Museum of American Art, Annual, New York, NY 1948, ’50, ’53, ’56, ’59, ‘72
1947 University of Iowa, “3rd Summer Exhibition of Contemporary Art,” Iowa City, IA
1948 Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York, NY (SOLO), 1950-1953
1949 Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
Santa Barbara Museum, Santa Barbara, CA
Forum 49, Provincetown, MA
Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York, NY, 1950, ‘51
1950 American Federation of Art, New York, NY
1951 St. Louis Museum, St. Louis, MO
Ninth Street Exhibition, New York, NY
1952 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
1953 Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
1955 Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, 1957
1956 Poindexter Gallery, “The 30s: Painting in New York” 1957 Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
William Hengerer Prize, Albright Art Gallery
1958 Martha Jackson Gallery, Provincetown, MA
Chrysler Art Museum, Provincetown, MA (SOLO), 1960, ’64, ‘70
Knoedler Gallery, “A to Z in American Art,” New York
1960 Cape Cod Art Association, Hyannis, MA (SOLO)
1962 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (SOLO), 1967
1963 Iowa State College, Ames, IA (SOLO)
1964 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
1965 Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Tweed Gallery, Dutch, MN (SOLO)
1966 University of Tennessee, “4th Annual National Invitational,” Knoxville, TN
University of Minnesota Gallery, Minneapolis (SOLO)
Special Donor Award, Walker Art Center
1968 University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
1970 Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, 1978, ’79, ‘99
1971 Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, 1973, ’79, ’83, ’88, ’96, 2001
1972 Kansas State University Gallery, Manhattan, KS (SOLO)
1975 Wisconsin State University, Eau Claire, WI (SOLO)
1977 Everson Museum of Art, “Provincetown Painters,” Syracuse, NY
American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy
Parsons School of Design, New York, NY
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN (SOLO)
Rutgers University Art Gallery, “Surrealism and American Art: 1931- 1947,” New Brunswick, NJ
Guggenheim Fellowship
1978 Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA
1979 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH

Selected Museum Collections
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Brandeis University, Rose Art Museum
Butler Institute of American Art
Cape Museum of Fine Arts
Chaim Gross Studio Museum
Chrysler Museum of Art
Colby College Museum of Art
Cooper Union Museum
Cornell University
Dayton Art Institute
Everson Museum of Art
Federal Reserve Bank, Minneapolis
Solomon Guggenheim Foundation
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Guild Hall Museum
Iowa State University, Brunnier Art Museum
La Jolla Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Michigan State University, Kresge Art Museum
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute
Parrish Art Museum
Portland Art Museum
Provincetown Art Association & Museum
Reading Public Museum
Rutgers University, Zimmerli Art Museum
Slater Memorial Museum
Smith College, Museum of Art
Syracuse Museum of Art
University of Massachusetts, Boston
University of Minnesota at Duluth, Tweed Museum of Art
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Weisman Art Museum
University of North Carolina, Ackland Art Museum
University of Oregon, Museum of Art
University of Wisconsin, Elvehjem Museum of Art
Walker Art Center
Whitney Museum of American Art
Worchester Art Museum


Peter Busa was a central figure in the New York School, a truly original thinker, and a pioneer of modern art. Though difficult to categorize, his 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 automatic 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. After abandoning Indian Space for styles more closely akin to straightforward abstract expressionism and geometric abstraction during the sixties and seventies, Busa returned to an evolved form of Indian Space painting in the eighties.

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. …despite his successful exhibitions with such leading galleries as Peggy Guggenheim, Carlebach, and Bertha Schaefer he [has not yet] made it into the celebrity bandwagon of dealers,…collectors, and the art press. The personal poetry and awesome range and depth of his body of work remains one of the great undiscovered treasures of Twentieth Century American art….”