Robert Houle is a member of Sandy Bay First Nation, Manitoba. He currently lives and works in Toronto. Houle is a contemporary Anishnabe Saulteaux artist with international exhibition experience. 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 recently on view at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris and made its North American debut at the Art Gallery of Peterborough in May, 2011. It will open at the Art Gallery of Windsor during Fall of 2012. 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, Montreal 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 Montreal Biennale 2000; We Come in Peace...: Histories of the Americas, at the Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal and, most recently, My Winnipeg at La Maison Rouge, Paris.
Houle was curator of contemporary aboriginal art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization 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 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.