In the Balance: Between Painting and Sculpture, 1965–1985

Oct 19, 2022–Mar 5, 2023

In the Balance: Between Painting and Sculpture, 1965–1985 brings together artworks from the Whitney's collection that cross boundaries and upset conventions. Regardless of whether they pour across or sit on the floor, the sculptures included here explore painting’s domain through investigations of color, surface, and optical perception. The paintings, conversely, engage with sculptural concerns by taking up ideas long associated with three-dimensional art, such as balance and objecthood.

The works share many crossover effects, but their greatest affinity is in revealing how artists during this period were persistently questioning how we relate to, react to, and fit into (or are alienated from) physical space. Such queries were top of mind for sculptors associated with movements that flourished at this time, including Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, and feminist art. Similarly, just as many critics were arguing that painting had reached a dead end, painters active in the 1970s and early 1980s asserted the medium’s enduring vitality by pursuing untraditional starting points like shaped canvases, mathematically driven abstract compositions, and other explorations of positive and negative space that called attention to perception.

By commingling elements of painting and sculpture, these works exist beyond established limits of what artists can do and upset the balance of preexisting ideas of what art can be.

This exhibition is organized by Jennie Goldstein, Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Major support for In the Balance: Painting and Sculpture, 1965–1985 is provided by the Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation.

Judy Chicago 


When Judy Chicago initially made Trinity in 1965, she stretched canvas over plywood units to create its discrete forms. She then spray-painted the surfaces using a technique she had learned in an auto-body school. At that time, many of her fellow—mostly male—artists worked with industrial fabricators to produce Minimalist sculptures, and Chicago was determined to access methods of production typically unavailable to women. The work’s title, which has Christian religious connotations, may humorously nod to the dogmatic fervor her contemporaries brought to their work.

Chicago became a leading figure of the feminist art movement in the 1970s. Rejecting the notion that she should “rearrange my life to suit my male partner,” she turned away from “rearrangeable” abstract sculpture during that time. Decades later, however, Chicago refabricated this tripartite sculpture in metal. This revisitation suggests a different kind of triad: the interrelationship of color, spatial patterning, and sites of display.


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Artist sitting amongst large sculptures

Balancing Acts

By Jennie Goldstein, Assistant Curator

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Audio guides

Hear directly from artists and curators on selected works from the exhibition.

View guide

Explore works from this exhibition
in the Whitney's collection

View 12 works

In the News

“To tackle chaos but achieve order nonetheless—that’s when balance is beautiful.” —The Wall Street Journal

“The exhibition, an anthology of innovation, is not only enjoyable, it shows the experimental bent of these artists extremely well.” —The Brooklyn Rail