His work blends abstraction, modernism and conceptualism with First Nations aesthetics and histories. Houle went to residential school in Sandy Bay, Manitoba, and studied art at the University of Manitoba, McGill University in Montreal, the Salzburg International Summer Academy, and at Concordia University. Houle was also active on museum boards and is an accomplished artist, curator and writer.
Robert Houle: Red is Beautiful will feature over 90 large installations, paintings and drawings created between 1970 and 2020. Themes in the exhibition include Sacred Geometry, The Spiritual Legacy of the Ancient Ones, Beyond History Painting, The Aesthetics of Disappearance, Residential School Years, and Sovereignty.
Houle is a colourist working in oil and has painted an impressive body of work that challenges our understanding of Western and First Nations art history.
This exhibition is a walk through fifty years of what matters to First Nations and Settler relations today with an artist who is always ahead of time.
Robert Houle (b. 1947, St. Boniface, Manitoba) is an Anishinaabe Saulteaux contemporary artist, curator, writer, critic, and educator. For more than fifty years, he has worked to advocate for First Nations artistic representation and sovereignty and has established himself as an essential force within the artistic community in Canada and around the world. Houle studied at the University of Manitoba, McGill University, and the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria, and for many years taught Indigenous Studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design. From 1977 to 1981, he was Curator of Contemporary Aboriginal Art at the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization). As a curator, he is also responsible for landmark exhibitions such as Land Spirit Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada (1992).
Houle was one of the first artists to paint his personal experiences of the residential school system, bringing this era into sharp relief.
The series Sandy Bay (1998-99) deals with his own experience of being torn from his home. Later, in 2009, he began to deal with his memories of abuse in the school through a series of visceral drawings and paintings.
Houle turns to the spiritual power of the ancient ones providing a new vision for an Indigenous future that holds the complexity of contemporary First Nations identity in its grasp.