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.

Kay WalkingStick


This work is part of a series of paintings based on aprons, an item familiar to both domestic and artistic spaces. Kay WalkingStick began work on these canvases in 1973, when at age thirty-eight she enrolled in a master’s program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and was able to make art outside her home for the first time. Here, this familiar protective covering is pinned by its strings to the points of a triangle above a paint-splattered expanse. The draped form suggests an absent body, while spatters of color allude to the process of producing an abstract composition. The result is a painting that references both the artist who made it and the act of its making. The hanging lines also resonated with the artist’s surroundings: WalkingStick noted the form’s similarity to the drooping suspension cables she observed driving over bridges during her daily commute from New Jersey. “The bridges were the best part of that drive,” she explained. “I think they are the best sculpture in the city.”


View all


Artist sitting amongst large sculptures

Balancing Acts

By Jennie Goldstein, Assistant Curator

Read essay

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