Art Gallery of Ontario features work of Anishinabe-Saulteaux artist Robert Houle


A massive collection of works spanning 50 years of work by Robert Houle is now on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto.

Houle, 74, was on hand for the opening of the exhibit called Red is Beautiful and was asked about his favorites.

“I never realized how much I have produced big painting big ego I guess I don’t know some of them are there all my favourites, so if somebody asks me which one is my favorite, they’re all my favorite,” he says.

The walk-through exhibition was two years in the making.

It features 90 pieces of his work from 1970 to 2021.

The many themes on display include history, residential schools and sovereignty.

“It’s frightening but it also makes you realize how old you are but the most surprising thing about it is how many there are,” says Houle.

Curator Wanda Nanibush says Houle is getting the recognition he deserves.

“I think that people will feel the beauty of his work the emotion and passion, and you know the greatness of the colour,” she tells APTN News. “He does come from the idea that colour is a spiritual thing and you can really feel it in the show so I want people to understand him as an artist and a colorist but then also I think that we can finally grapple with the history of this country because it’s here in all the work.”

Houle was born in St. Boniface, Man. in 1947.

According to the AGO, “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).”

The exhibition Red is Beautiful runs until April 2022.

Annette Francis
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