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ROBERT HOULE: Closing Saturday “Prelude to Red” at Kinsman Robinson

It’s now the final days to view our Prelude to Red exhibition which opened in advance of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s ROBERT HOULE: Red is Beautiful.

The body of work showcased at Kinsman Robinson spans important moments in Robert’s artistic trajectory, including the series of sketches produced for his Paris/Ojibwa exhibition at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris. The individual sketches form two grids Delacroix’s Ojibwa and Reclining Ojibwa, Robert’s studies on the sketch by Eugene Delacroix, Cinq études d’Indiens, that he discovered during a residency in Paris. The original sketch documented an Indigenous dance troupe that toured Europe in the 1800s. Robert’s discovery led to an important line of inquiry and a conversation with the archive as a way to provide evidence of a historical account of Indigenous  presence and intervention in Europe. It also seeded one of his most important exhibitions, Paris/Ojibwa, that includes the construction of faux salon, scaled to actual size, to represent the tableaux vivant setting the dance troupe, touring with George Catlin, performed on for royalty, aristocracy and the creative class of the time. These sketches connect directly to this work, also titled Paris/Ojbwa, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and installed ongoing in Gallery 115.

Included in the Prelude to Red exhibition are a series of mixed media works that consider the form of traditional hide hand drums. Like the drums the AGO commissioned Robert for Walker’s Court, Seven Grandfathers (2014), the medium-sized paper works demonstrate Robert’s command of abstraction. Set on a moody, yet quiet background of grays and blues, his signature strokes cut through the composition with pulsating warm tones of orange and red, like sound waves emanating from the terseness of the animal skin.

There are several larger scale mylar works in the exhibition, including Shaman (2014) Robert’s first work on mylar, a surface he has come to use more often. Other mylar works include Mapping (2016), Drum (2016) and Mishipeshu and Black Snake (2019).

Smaller scale works include collages that incorporate various ephemeral images like magazine covers juxtaposed with a visual inventory of personal photographs and sketches. His culturally specific abstractions and gestural lines are layered on top providing a frame for the compositions below. Other small scale works referencing Robert’s biography are telegram messages placed on grid paper. Robert has shaded out the triangle shapes in the grids producing a gradient halo around the personalized communications. Again, Robert’s signature brush and line work compliment the foundational layer of personal ephemera, messages of well wishes from names like Miss General Idea and Daphne Odjig as well as others. Each of these works provide an intimate encounter with the indomitable Robert Houle, one of the most resilient and important artistic minds of our times.

We are open Friday and Saturday 11 am – 5 pm and look forward to seeing you. Please inquire for a list of available works.


ABOVE IMAGES: “Prelude to Red” exhibition at Kinsman Robinson Gallery.

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