Not Titled c.1987
Gershon Iskowitz, Not Titled, c.1987
Oil on canvas, 96.5 x 83.8 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Ovoid blips of pink, blue, and green appear with a warm orange-yellow ground in this unsigned, undated work. There are, in fact, no signed or 1987-dated Iskowitz paintings, and his last solo exhibition at Gallery Moos was in 1986. Gershon Iskowitz continued to produce work after that show, and there are signed and dated paintings from 1986. Nine unsigned canvases are ascribed to 1987, including two diptychs. However, there is strong evidence that, from the late 1960s on, Iskowitz signed and dated works only when he had completed a series. Given that Iskowitz never seems to have worked on more than two paintings at a time, it’s likely, then, that he had not finished this series. He was hospitalized in late fall 1987, where he remained until he died on January 26, 1988.
In art-world convention, unsigned works are not usually ranked as completed. Nevertheless, we can include this painting in Iskowitz’s oeuvre. It has all the hallmarks of Iskowitz’s work over the previous twenty years: the minimalist ovoid compositions of the 1967 season-titled paintings (as in Autumn Landscape #2), and the green and blue palette for the ovoid blips from the 1984–85 Northern Lights Septets. But unlike the Septets, Orange Yellow C, 1982, or any previous paintings, the orange-yellow ground is a complementary hue to the blips.
An examination of Iskowitz’s late works and a comparison with signed and dated 1986 paintings strongly suggest that all but one large diptych were finished. It would be dismissive to relegate them to mere curiosity or conversation piece. In art history, “late works,” for a senior artist, can be a pejorative or derogatory term, implying that the “best works” came earlier or that the artist is settling into a comfortable and familiar style. The evidence is clear that in this painting, Iskowitz was still working toward new solutions in his practice.