Artworks and Artists
Robert Houle
Born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, 29 March 1947

Photo: Greg Staats

Robert Houle

Robert Houle, of Anishnaabe (Saulteaux) descent, was raised on the Sandy Bay Indian Reserve, 200 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. In 1972 he enrolled in Art History at the University of Manitoba, and the following year transferred to McGill, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Art Education in 1975.

As an artist, curator and writer, Houle is deeply committed to Aboriginal issues in Canada. His work uses a modernist abstract approach to explore such themes as the cultural near-extinction and assimilation of the Aboriginal people over the past century by the forces of colonialism. Rejecting the categorization of Aboriginal art as the anthropological material of dying civilizations, he promotes the work of Aboriginal artists as the vital creative expression of living cultures. In 1977 Houle was appointed as the first curator of contemporary Aboriginal art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. After three years he resigned, explaining: "I became passionately involved with the issues surrounding contemporary Aboriginal expression.... I realized that, for me, perhaps the best way to promote this cause was not as a curator but as an artist."