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EDUCATION: Robert Houle featured in Art Gallery of Ontario’s Teacher Resource (Pt 2)

“Art has the capacity to lift people’s spirits. Culture is an essential ingredient to any improvement in social and economic conditions. For that reason the special status of native peoples must be acknowledged and protected not only in a constitutional but also in cultural context – Robert Houle

Continuing on our posts on the Art Gallery of Ontario’s (AGO) launching of their new series of Teacher Resources, Part 2 for Robert Houle looks at another of his works in the AGO collection – Premises for Self-Rule: Constitution Act. 

As with The Pines, in this piece Robert also addresses historical conflicts between the Canadian Government and Indigenous peoples. This work is part of the series Premises for Self-Rule that includes four other works, The Royal Proclamation, 1763; the British North American Act, 1867; Treaty 1, 1871; and the Indian Act, 1876, “in which Houle addresses historic and contemporary issues of Indigenous self-determination and self-government.”

From the resource:

Houle combines an abstract swath of ochre paint on the left with an excerpt of the Canadian government’s 1982
Constitution Act. Over the text, Houle places an image of a group of Kainai (Blackfoot) women, reproduced from a
1907 postcard from Fort Macleod, Alberta, given to Houle by fellow artist Faye HeavyShield (born 1953). Together, the image and text emphasize how Indigenous women’s power was taken away under colonialism but could return under self-government (and is potentially protected under the current charter).

As Art Canada Insitutes states this series “represents Houle’s entry into postmodernism, with a fearless mixing of modes of representation: abstraction, appropriated photographs, and text.”

The AGO has made the digital resources available to the public. Download Robert Houle’s PDF on Premises for Self-Rule: Constitution Act here. Read more about Robert’s Premise for Self-Rule series on Art Canada Institute’s book on Robert, also available as a downloadable PDF.

View the Teacher Resource page on the AGO’s website.

Cover of the AGO’s Teacher Resource PDF for Robert Houle.

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