“Houle, an Anishinaabe Saulteaux First Nations artist, is the closest thing to a household name in Canadian art as you’ll find. An artist, curator, educator and firebrand for his people’s rights, Houle made his mark with thoughtful – however fiery – painterly gestures aimed squarely at chipping away at the foundations a couple of centuries of colonial rule had built on his ancestral lands.” – Murray Whyte, Toronto Star
“The neutrality perceived in abstraction is the making of art to create a space where one can deal with bi-cultural issues of identity. It creates a work in contention, in progress.” – Robert Houle, Troubling Abstraction
Available works range between $4,000 and $24,000
Robert Houle, B.A., B.Ed., D.Litt., RCA is a member of Sandy Bay First Nation, Treaty One Territory in Southern Manitoba. He lives and works in Toronto. Houle is a contemporary Anishnaabe Saulteaux artist with international exhibition experience over 40 years. Through curating, writing and teaching, he has played a significant role in defining indigenous identity. Drawing from Western art conventions, Houle tackles lingering aspects of colonization and its postcolonial aftermath. Relying on the objectivity of modernity and the subjectivity of postmodernity, Houle brings aboriginal history into his work through the integration of text and photographic documents from the dominant society. Houle studied art history at the University of Manitoba; he received art education at McGill University and pursued painting and drawing at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria.
Houle has been exhibiting since the early 1970’s. His most recent exhibition, the multi-media installation Paris/Ojibwa, was on view at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris in 2010 and made its North American debut at the Art Gallery of Peterborough in May, 2011 (view exhibition). In the Fall of 2012 it opened at the Art Gallery of Windsor. Among his many solo exhibitions are Lost Tribes, at Hood College, Maryland; Sovereignty over Subjectivity, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Palisade, at Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa; Troubling Abstraction at McMaster Museum of Art in collaboration with Robert McLaughlin Gallery; Nomenclature at Urban Shaman, Winnipeg; Cendres et Diamants at Galerie Orenda, Paris; Artifact Abstractions at Galerie Robert, Montréal and Anishnabe Walker Court, an intervention at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Also, he has participated in several important international group exhibitions, including Recent Generations: Native American Art from 1950 to 1987 at the Heard Museum, Phoenix; Traveling Theory at the Jordan National Gallery, Amman, Jordan; Notions of Conflict at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Real Fictions: Four Canadian Artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; Tout le temps/Every Time at the Montréal Biennale 2000; We Come in Peace…: Histories of the Americas at the Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal and My Winnipeg at La Maison Rouge, Paris, France.
Houle was curator of contemporary aboriginal art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now Canadians Museum of History) from 1977 to 1981. He has curated or co-curated groundbreaking exhibitions such as New Work by a New Generation, in connection with the World Assembly of First Nations, 1982, at the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina; Land Spirit Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada in 1992 and Multiplicities at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia in 1993-94. Houle has written extensively on major contemporary First Nations and Native American artists and recently contributed an essay to the catalogue, The Colour of My Dreams: the Surrealist Revolution in Art, the largest exhibition of this movement ever to be presented in Canada at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He taught native studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) in Toronto for fifteen years mentoring a new generation of artists and curators and recently returned to the Faculty of Art to lecture on Indigenous Abstraction.
Robert Houle’s considerable influence as an artist, curator, writer, educator and cultural theorist has led to his being awarded the Janet Braide Memorial Award for Excellence in Canadian Art History in 1993; the 2001 Toronto Arts Award for the Visual Arts; the Eiteljorg Fellowship in 2003; membership in the Royal Canadian Academy; distinguished Alumnus, University of Manitoba and the Canada Council for the Arts International Residencies Program in the Visual Arts in Paris. Additionally, Houle has served on various boards and advisory committees including those of The Art Gallery of Ontario, The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, The Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, A Space, The Power Plant and the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. In 2017, Houle was commissioned by The Confederation Centre of The Arts in Charlottetown to create a work for Canada 150 (view more information). The work, titled O-ween du muh waun (We Were Told), was loaned to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection for Houle’s exhibition Robert Houle: Histories from September 14, 2019 – February 23, 2020 (view exhibition info) and also exhibited, while in Ontario, at Art Toronto 2019 (view KRG’s booth)
Artists Barry Ace and Robert Houle in front of Houle’s “O-ween du muh waun (We Were Told)” at Art Toronto 2019 in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection booth.
KRG’s Diane Kinsman and Paul Robinson with Robert Houle and partner Paul Gardner at opening of Robert Houle: Shaman Dream In Colour, April 23, 2016. (IMAGE: Andrew Hunter)
Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Ontario), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Hamilton, Ontario), Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau,Québec), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario), Confederation Centre Art Gallery (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island), Eiteljorg Museum (Indianapolis, Indiana), The Forks (Winnipeg Art Gallery), Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona), Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (Gatineau,Québec), Laurentian University Museum and Arts Centre (Sudbury, Ontario), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), McGill University (Montréal, Québec), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Ontario), National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario) and Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg, Manitoba).
2019-2020 Robert Houle: Histories, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.
2018 Pahgedenaun, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
2016 Robert Houle: Shaman Dream in Colour, Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
2015 Robert Houle: Obscured Horizons, MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie, Ontario.
2014 Seven Grandfathers, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario.
2012 enuhmo andúhyaun (the road home), School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Exhibition publication.
2010–11 Robert Houle’s Paris/Ojibwa, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France, and Art Gallery of Peterborough, Ontario. Toured to Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
2007 Troubling Abstraction: Robert Houle, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, Ontario in collaboration with The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
2006 Nomenclature: Apache Bombs and Helicopters, Urban Shaman, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
2000–01 Palisade, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
1999 Robert Houle: Sovereignty over Subjectivity, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Toured to the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
1996 Pontiac’s Conspiracy, Garnet Press Gallery, Toronto, Ontario.
1994 Premises for Self-Rule, Garnet Press Gallery, Toronto, Ontario.
1993 Kanata: Robert Houle’s Histories, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
1993 Anishnabe Walker Court, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario.
1992 Hochelaga, article, Montréal, and YYZ, Toronto, Ontario.
1991 Lost Tribes, Hood College, Frederick, Maryland.
1990 Robert Houle: Indians from A to Z, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Toured to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta; MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan; and Museum of Civilization (now Canadian Museum of History), Gatineau, Québec. Exhibition publication.
1989 Seven in Steel, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.
2017 Re:collection, Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Exhibition publication.
2016 Form Follows Fiction: Art and Artists in Toronto, University of Toronto Art Centre, Toronto, Ontario.
2016 Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971–1989, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Exhibition publication.
2013–14 Before and after the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes, National Museum of the American Indian, New York, New York and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
2013 1992: Robert Houle, Duane Linklater, Nadia Myre, MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie, Ontario.
2013 Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
2013 IN/digitized: Indigenous Culture in a Digital World, SAW Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario.
2013 Four Contemporary Artists: Barry Ace, Bonnie Devine, Rosalie Favell, and Robert Houle, Carmel Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario.
2012 Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation, Museum of Arts and Design, New York. Exhibition publication.
2012 Sovereign Acts, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.
2007 Testbed, Nuit Blanche, Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, Ontario.
2004 We Come in Peace…: Histories of the Americas, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, Québec. Exhibition publication.
2003 Pathbreakers: Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana. Exhibition publication.
2001 Landmark, University of Waterloo Art Gallery in collaboration with the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario. Exhibition publication.
2000 Tout le temps/Every Time: La Biennale 2000, Montréal, Québec. Exhibition publication.
1996 Real Fictions: Four Canadian Artists, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia.
1995 Notions of Conflict, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
1995 Displaced Histories, Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ontario.
1992 Rethinking History, Mercer Union, Toronto, Ontario.
1990 Why Do You Call Us Indian? Gettysburg College Art Gallery, Pennsylvania. Contemporary Rituals, White Water Gallery, North Bay, Ontario.
1989 Beyond History, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia. Exhibition publication.
1987 Eight from the Prairies, Part Two, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, Ontario and Southwest Museum, Los Angeles, California.
1985 Challenges, de Meervaart Cultural Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
1983 Innovations: New Expressions in Native American Painting, Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.
1982 New Work by a New Generation, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan. Exhibition publication.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY ROBERT HOULE
“Odjig: An Artist’s Transition.” The Native Perspective 3, no. 2 (1978): 42–46.
“The Emergence of a New Aesthetic Tradition.” In New Work by a New Generation, 2–5. Exhibition publication. Regina: Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, 1982.
“The Spiritual Legacy of the Ancient Ones.” In Land, Spirit, Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada, edited by Susan McMaster and Claire Rochon. Exhibition publication. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1992.
“A Context for the Janvier Legacy.” In The Art of Alex Janvier: His First Thirty Years, 1960–1990, by Lee-Ann Martin, 49–65. Exhibition publication. Thunder Bay: Thunder Bay Art Gallery, 1993.
Invitation to the opening of Robert Houle’s first solo exhibition, Parfleches for the Last Supper, 1984, held at the University of Toronto.
“A Context for Haida Abstraction.” In Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge, edited by Karen Duffek. Exhibition publication. Vancouver: Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, 2004.
“Dibaajimowin/Storytelling.” In Stories from the Shield: Bonnie Devine. Exhibition publication. Brantford: Woodland Cultural Centre, 2004.
“Translation/Transportation.” In Nadia Myre: Cont[r]act, by Joan Reid Acland, Rhonda L. Meir, Robert Houle, and Anne Collett. Exhibition publication. Montreal: Dark Horse Productions, 2004.
“Creating Space within a National Identity.” In Vision, Space, Desire: Global Perspectives and Cultural Hybridity. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of the American Indian, 2006.
“Odjig: A Pictorial Style in Transition.” In The Drawings and Paintings of Daphne Odjig: A Retrospective Exhibition, by Bonnie Devine, 37–42. Exhibition publication. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2007.
“Poetic Portals of Memory.” In Greg Staats: Reciprocity. Exhibition publication. Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, 2007.
“Interiority as Allegory.” In Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion, edited by Daina Augaitis and Kathleen Ritter, 19–23. Exhibition publication. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 2008.
“Shape-shifting Images.” In The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, edited by Dawn Ades, 27–75. Exhibition publication. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 2011.
“Bonnie Devine: Land as Metaphor for Survival.” Exhibition catalogue essay for We Are Here: 7th Biennial Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, Indianapolis: Eiteljorg Museum, 2011.
“The Beardmore Garden Party.” In Norval Morrisseau 2012 Retrospective. Exhibition publication. Toronto: Kinsman Robinson Galleries, 2012.
“Anishnabe Supernova.” Exhibition catalogue essay for Copper Thunderbird: The Art of Norval Morrisseau, Toronto: Westerkirk Works of Art, 2012.
“Kay WalkingStick: Landscape, the Living Synthesis of Human Presence and Place.” Exhibition catalogue essay for Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist, Washington, D.C.: National Museum of the American Indian, 2013.
April 9, 2015. How Robert Houle “decolonized” himself through painting, The Coast Halifax by Hillary Windsor.
August 1, 2014. Robert Houle at the Art Gallery of Ontario: a sort of homecoming, The Toronto Star by Murray Whyte.
September 24, 2013. York Wilson Award Honours Robert Houle’s Residential School Art, Canadian Art by Leah Sandals.
July 27, 2000. Looking for Robert Houle, The Globe & Mail by Sarah Hampson.
2020 Artist Spotlight: Robert Houle – The Pines, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario (Downloadable PDF)
2020 Artist Spotlight: Robert Houle – Premises for Self-Rule: Constitution Act, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario (Downloadable PDF)
2019 Robert Houle: Pahgedenaun. Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario. (Link to Purchase)
2018 Robert Houle: Life & Work. Art Canada Institute. (Digital Book & PDF)
2018 Robert Houle: Parflèche | Protecting, Carrying, Defending, Surrey Art Gallery. (Downloadable PDF)
2016 Robert Houle: Shaman Dream in Colour, Kinsman Robinson Galleries. (Downloadable PDF)
2014 Paris/Ojibwa, Art Gallery of Peterborough, Peterborough, Ontario. (Link to Purchase)
2007 Robert Houle: Troubling Abstraction, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, Ontario. (Link to Purchase)
2001 LANDMARK The Paintings of Robert Houle and John Abrams, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario. (Link to Purchase)
2000 Robert Houle’s Palisade, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario. (Link to Purchase)
1999 Robert Houle, sovereignty over subjectivity, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Link to Purchase)
1999 Native American Art in the Twentieth Century: Makers, Meanings, Histories. Routledge. (Link to Purchase)
1995 Crossroads Visualism: Robert Houle. Parachute (Fall): 42–46. Douglas, Susan.
1993 Kanata Robert Houle’s histories, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario. (Link to Purchase)
1990 Robert Houle: Indians from A to Z. Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Link to Purchase)
1988 The Struggle Against Cultural Apartheid. Muse 6, no. 3 (1988): 58–63. Hargittay, Clara.
1985 Challenges. National Museum of Man, Hull, Québec and Amsterdam: de Meervaart Cultural Centre. McMaster, Gerald.
1985 I Lost It at the Trading Post. Canadian Art 2, no. 4 (Winter 1985): 33–39. Scott, Jay.
1985 New Visions in Canadian Plains Painting. American Indian Art Magazine (Spring 1985): 46–53. Warner, John Anson.
1978 Robert Houle and the Ojibway Leaves. The Native Perspective 2, no. 10 (1978): 21–23. Musiol, Marie-Jeanne.
AUDIO & VIDEO
Niro, Shelley, writer, producer, and editor. Robert’s Paintings. 2011. Turtle Night Productions. Colour video, 52:00 min.
Roemer, Derreck, director. Robert Houle, Visual Artist. Canada Council for the Arts. Colour video, 4:15 min.
The View from Here: A Canadian Picture Show in Nine Acts. 1997. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada. Distributed by the National Film Board.
Wasserman, Leslie, producer. The Art of Robert Houle. 2000. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
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