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“ROBERT HOULE: Prelude to Red” at KRG precursor for AGO Retrospective “Red is Beautiful”

Robert Houle is one of the most influential First Nations artists to break into the contemporary art world. His work blends abstraction, modernism and conceptualism with First Nations aesthetics and histories. Houle went from residential school to art school to museum boardrooms and on to the art world stage as an artist, curator and writer.
– Art Gallery of Ontario

To honour the incredible cultural legacy and artistic practice of Robert Houle, Kinsman Robinson is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Houle: Prelude to Red this coming Saturday, November 20, 2021. The exhibition will continue until December 19, 2021 coinciding with the opening of Robert’s retrospective exhibition, Robert Houle: Red is Beautiful, curated by Wanda Nanibush, at the Art Gallery of Ontario Friday, December 3, 2021.

Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) from Kawikwetawankak/Sandy Bay First Nation in Manitoba, Robert’s career has intervened in the landscape of contemporary Canadian Art in a profound way. As a visual artist as well as a curator, educator and writer, he has played a key role in course-correcting the overarching Colonial narrative in Canada’s art institutions. His decades of engagement, both inside and outside of these spaces, has facilitated opportunities for dialogue and reflection resulting in necessary change.


Together, the works in Shaman Dream in Colour offer compelling insights into the lived histories and visionary travels of the artist, drawing us into the continued power and inexhaustible depths of a dream.
– David McIntosh, Associate Professor, Media Studies, OCADU

In 2016, Kinsman Robinson exhibited Shaman Dream in Colour, a collection of work that highlighted Robert’s command of abstraction in paintings like Fort MacLeod (image: left) now in the TD Art Collection.

Positioned in the choreography of Robert’s signature artistic gestures, symbols like the Waaban-anang (Morning Star), representing spiritual healing and guidance for the Anishinaabe, hold steadfast within the rhythm of his compositions. Lush palettes contrast with striking grayscale depictions of Shaman (view exhibition catalogue).


Paris/Ojibwa honours the memory of the Indigenous dance troupe, reflecting on the crucial theme of aesthetics of disappearance.
– Art Gallery of Peterborough

Known and cherished nationally, Robert has also exhibited internationally, including the 2010 touring exhibition (Art Gallery of PeterboroughArt Gallery of WindsorParis/Ojibwa at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, France that was seeded by his discovery of the Delacroix sketch, Cinq études d’Indiens, in the Louvre’s archives. The drawing was of members of an Indigenous dance troupe that had visited Paris as part of George Catlin’s Indian Gallery in the mid 1800s. The troupe included Maungwudaus (George Henry) an Anishinaabe performer, interpreter and Indigenous rights advocate born on the North Shore of Lake Ontario. Through the synchronicity of this moment Robert rebirthed the unknown and unnamed figures into the contemporary.

We are excited to announce that a selection of Robert’s sketches based on the Delacroix work will be included as part of Prelude to Red. The exhibition also includes large scale mylar mixed media works along with smaller scale abstractions and collages.

Join us Saturday, November 20 to celebrate Robert Houle.


From the AGO:

Since the 1970s, contemporary Anishinaabe artist Robert Houle has been actively changing the way we see contemporary Indigenous art. A pivotal figure, his presence is felt every day at the AGO – his storied installation Seven Grandfathers (2014) hangs in Walker Court, and visitors to the J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art will immediately recognize his work Premises for Self-Rule: Constitution Act (1982) and the triptych The Pines (2002–2004). So how exciting to present at the AGO a major career retrospective of his work Robert Houle: Red is Beautiful, opening December 3.

Bringing to the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion more than 100 artworks made between 1970 and 2021, including large scale installations, monumental paintings and drawings, the exhibition reflects on topics including nuclear fallout, residential schools, Indigenous sovereignty and the birth of Canada.

More resources:

Art Canada Institute (digital art book)

Robert Houle: Red is Beautiful (Art Gallery of Ontario website)

Shaman Dream in Colour (KRG Exhibition Catalogue PDF)

View a selection of available works for purchase at KRG by Robert Houle.

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