A strange combination of yesteryear’s zeitgeist and latter-day nostalgia was palpable on Tuesday night at the Hole, a gallery on New York’s Lower East Side whose new exhibition, “Meet Me in the Bathroom: The Art Show,” is a survey of art and artifacts from the indie music scene of the early 2000s. Based on Lizzy Goodman’s oral-history book Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 (whose title is itself a reference to a Strokes hit), the opening featured a DJ set by Mark Ronson and cocktails named after songs by Yeah Yeah Yeahs among recreations of the dubious bathrooms associated with indie rock venues and curation by Goodman and film director Hala Matar.
Work by artists like Dan Colen and Ryan McGinley covered faux-distressed walls made to evoke the vibe of concert venues downtown. “It feels kind of like I’m at a club,” New Yorker culture writer Naomi Fry remarked as a smoke machine hissed behind her.
“This show is very Strokes-intensive,” another attendee noted, gazing at some old photos of the band shot by Colin Lane. “Almost too much so…”
A common criticism of the “indie” scene that inspired the show is its reliance on corporate support and mainstream commercialization. (The Strokes, for instance, signed to RCA in 2001, an offshoot of Sony Music, one of the biggest music labels in the world.) The show reflected some of this schism. Guests at the opening could be seen filing past works by Rita Ackermann and Dash Snow to collect free pairs of Vans. And it’s worth noting that many of the once-countercultural artists in the exhibition have now been absorbed by formidable commercial forces—Ackermann is repped by the mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth, and Urs Fischer, whose iconic cover art for the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s 2009 album It’s Blitz! hung on the wall, shows with Gagosian gallery.
This is partly a sign of the times, as the boundaries between the art and music worlds at different scales continue to blur. The exhibition is co-presented with UTA Artist Space, the Los Angeles talent agency with a fine art division. UTA executives Arthur Lewis and Lesley Silverman flew out for the opening. “I love the McGinley photo,” said Lewis, pointing to a large-scale print of a young person puking toward a camera. “It’s hard to point out a favorite, but that’s a showstopper,”
“Things like this bring all parts of the entertainment industry together,” Silverman added.
Others in attendance at the opening included notorious socialite/writer Cat Marnell, model/painter Tali Lennox, artists Rob Pruitt and Jenna Gribbon, and Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler.
Kathy Grayson, the Hole’s owner, seemed happy with the crowd. “This kind of blend of people is pretty normal for us,” she told ARTnews. As she turned away to go back to partying, artist Nate Lowman rolled in alongside Leo Fitzpatrick. The latter might be best-known for his role in Larry Clark’s 1995 film Kids, but these days, he’s also co-director of Marlborough Gallery in New York. (At least part of the Kids ethos has stuck, however, as he showed up with a skateboard in tow.)
Asked whether he embodied the crossover between the different cultures on display at the Hole, Fitzpatrick said, “I don’t know—I’m old.” Addressing that early-’00s scene at large, he added, “I mean, it’s not super long ago. This was all fairly recent history. Did this scene really do anything at the time? Did it shift culture? The Strokes were too cool for me, but who fuckin’ cares. Just let it go.”