DC Artist Talks: Robert Houle Red Is Beautiful at the National Museum of the American Indian

By Editorial Team on May 30, 2023
Robert Houle, Red Is Beautiful, 1970. Acrylic on canvas, 45.5 x 61 cm. Canadian Museum of History, V-F-174, IMG2017-0112-0003-Dm. © Robert Houle


Artist’s Conversation: June 3 at 11am

Red is beautiful. For Robert Houle (Saulteaux Anishinaabe, Sandy Bay First Nation, b. 1947), color is powerful, expressive, and lies at the foundation of his artistic practice. Throughout his career, his work has embodied and expressed what he most values: the creative moment, the earth, and the sacred.

The spiritual power of ancient Indigenous knowledge not only endures, but also is essential to Houle’s creation of contemporary art. He works at the nexus of Western and Indigenous artistic traditions, whether he pierces the canvas with porcupine quills, reworks a grand history painting from an Indigenous perspective, or reconceives what is sacred while acknowledging his ancestors. In this way, Houle constructs a transcultural path forward with color, light, and gesture, grounded in Indigenous sovereignty. Red Is Beautiful, the first major retrospective of his work, celebrates more than fifty years of this singular artist’s remarkable career.

National Museum of the American Indian | National Mall | Fourth Street & Independence Avenue SW | Open Daily 10 AM–5:30 PM except December 25 | americanindian.si.edu