A year ago I wrote about the history of one wall at the Henry Art Gallery, tunneling into the memory of its surface to recall all the art I'd seen on it over the years. (This happens all the time if you find yourself looking at art a lot: Your eyes see what's in front of you while your brain flashes another image that was once in this place, and then another, and they starting talking.)

Anyway, another wall at the Henry takes on a new identity with the Kiki Smith exhibition (my review here).

Kiki Smith, photograph of one of her Harpies wax models.
  • Kiki Smith, photograph of one of her Harpies wax models.
One of the toughest images in the show (maybe the toughest?)—a straight-at-the-labia shot of one of Smith's sculptures, a wax model of a female torso from the Harpies series (at right)—hangs in the exact spot as Nan Goldin's photograph of two young girls playing did four years ago in Akio Takamori's Laughing Monks group show, one girl seen spreading her legs toward the camera. The Goldin photograph, along with others in Takamori's show about children, became the subject of fevered debate during the show (my response to that debate here), and it hit the headlines again a year later when police removed a print of it owned by Elton John from an exhibition in England. (John responded by removing the entire exhibition of his art.)

So, did Liz Brown, who curated the Smith exhibition, do it on purpose? Or is this just a coincidental case of, um, memorable tunneling? (Sorry.)

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"Um, not exactly," Brown says, laughing. "We tried that piece on a couple different walls. I put it someplace in gallery three—the big gallery—and she said, 'no, that's too friendly,' meaning too much exposure, too forthcoming, too presumptuous, even. So this was a quieter wall. It's a discreet wall. You have to come into the gallery to see that. I think it's more about that."

Well, keep looking for the Origin of the World on that wall.