'Meet Me in the Bathroom' Exhibit Transports Viewers to NYC's 'Manically Joyful' 2000s Rock Scene

'Meet Me In The Bathroom' Exhibits
Courtesy The Hole and UTA Artist Space

'Meet Me In The Bathroom' Exhibit

After reading Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001–2011, director and former curator Hala Matar saw the book’s potential to become an art exhibit.

“When I read the book, a lot of the musicians talk about their artwork, and a lot of them went to art school so I guess the idea just came naturally to me through reading it,” says Matar, who originally brought the idea for the exhibit to Goodman the first time they met -- just after the book’s May 2017 release. 

Named after a song by The Strokes, Goodman’s saga details the birth of a “manically joyful” music scene in post-9/11 New York City -- one of the final true breakout moments for old-school American rock and roll. The book follows some of the decade’s most influential musicians (The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem) in an oral history compiled of over 200 original interviews. 

Together, Goodman and Matar have now curated Meet Me in the Bathroom: The Art Show, located at The Hole gallery in the East Village through September 22. Composed of over 70 works, the exhibit acts as a visual counterpart to Goodman’s book.

Aside from displaying artists’ personal memorabilia (i.e. Karen O’s costumes and microphones) Meet Me in the Bathroom highlights artworks by musicians, like Adam Green of The Moldy Peaches -- whose pastel sketches were borrowed from under his bed. The exhibit also showcases works of popular visual artists of the period, like Spike Jonze and Urs Fischer, who often ran in similar circles.

“We're exploring the creative connection between groups of artists who are working in different mediums but pulling from the same well,” says Goodman of the exhibit. “Meaning they're all drunk in the same bars, they're all hungover on the same morning, they're all breathing the same molecules of oxygen in New York City during this particular time.”

It took a year for Matar and Goodman to fully realize the exhibit. They first presented the idea to The Hole’s owner and director, Kathy Grayson, who along with a variety of musicians, gave Matar and Goodman the stamp of approval.

“The response initially was just so positive that it was sort of like, 'Oh, we're gonna have to do this. People are psyched,’” says Goodman. “So that felt like good pressure.”

Goodman and Matar designed the exhibit to make patrons feel uneasy, unsure and at times, unsafe. The goal was to mirror New York City’s bleak ambiance post-9/11, which was aided in part by other massive disruptions of the new millennium, like the dawn of the internet and Napster, which fundamentally altered the music industry. 

“A lot of the works in the show challenge beauty,” says Matar, citing works like Ryan McGinley’s “Puke” -- a self portrait of the photographer mid-upchuck -- and Dan Colen’s “This Isn’t So Dark,” a gum smeared canvas reminiscent of a Pollock, pieces which were vital in creating this unstable narrative. 

As much as Goodman sees this instability as a hallmark of the Meet Me in the Bathroom era, she also sees it as relevant to the present. “It should bear mentioning that we're living in a super bleak time right now,” she says. “We're talking about a time with the political situation that we're in, the ecological situation that we're in, there’s a sense of fear and unrest.” 

Meet Me in the Bathroom runs through September 22 at 312 Bowery. The exhibit was organized by The Hole and UTA Artist Space, and presented by Vans. Signed, limited edition prints are available here via Absolut Art.