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Team Gallery

by Elisabeth Kley
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“Six years ago, my gallery was in a dank Chelsea basement," said Team Gallery owner José Freire on Thursday night, blissfully surveying “Portraits and Ghosts,” California-based artist David Ratcliff’s inaugural solo show at the gallery’s new SoHo space -- while Jakob Kolding’s “Blocks” was opening simultaneously at the Gallery’s Grand Street storefront.

The festivities followed last month’s exhibition of Marilyn Minter’s notorious 1980s "money shot" paintings -- porn that was supposedly too crudely sexual to exhibit when it was first made. For the Minter dinner, Team took over Indochine restaurant, which was a legendary '80s hangout for the art-world elite.

Freire began his singular SoHo revival back in 2005 by transforming the original site of Tricia Collins’s Grand Salon (which hosted an immediately forgotten exhibition of spin art paintings by Artnet Magazine editor Walter Robinson in 1995) into a majestic rectangular space that channels the spirit of Mary Boone’s legendary, similarly proportioned West Broadway gallery.

The new Team Gallery at 47 Wooster Street, which was formerly a fashion showroom, has floor-to-ceiling windows. “It’s retail style, so the shows will look as good from the sidewalk as they will from inside,” said artist Cory Arcangel, whose exhibition of art derived from video games opens at the Whitney Museum on May 27, 2011. “I have this hope that José will make Team-branded umbrellas, so that employees and visitors can shuffle from space to space in style on rainy days.”

“José has been glowing like a kid for the past six months,” added Ryan McGinley, another Team artist who became an instant art world celebrity, in McGinley's case at the ripe old age of 25. “The Kids Are Alright,” his series of photos of dissipated youth, burst onto the scene via the 2003 Whitney Biennial, but McGinley didn’t have a solo show in a New York gallery until he joined Team in 2007. “I waited a long time to pick a gallerist. With José, everything clicked. We’re both from New Jersey, so it’s no wonder we’re on the same page.”

Meanwhile, Ratcliff’s paintings -- large canvases with spray-painted stencil imagery -- loomed benevolently over the crowd. The bright yellow No Burial (2011) features four caricatured heads bedecked in skull-and-crossbone sunglasses, serenaded by a singing angel who hovers overhead. And the Francis Picabia -esque 1 Percent Free (2011) has overlapping profiles of female movie stars that glisten against a field of starlit black.

Also on view are works by other gallery artists, including Maria Eichhorn’s photographs of a censored book of Mapplethorpe photos and Suicide Invoice, a ghoulish new triptych painting by Slater Bradley, which features three large egg-shaped panels, the central one depicting some tanks, the left side people running, and the right a pair of shadows -- ghosts left behind. Also on view is a glowing abstraction by Stanley Whitney, who showed in 1990 at Fiction/Nonfiction, Freire’s first gallery. “José keeps upping the ante,” Whitney said. “He’s like an artist, never satisfied.”

In the back, round tables had been set for the 62 dinner guests. Once everyone was seated and eating, Freire rose from his seat next to Barbara Gladstone -- she handles works by Team Gallery artist Banks Violette -- to make a speech. “I always tell artists to run if a gallery says it’s like a family -- that’s bad news. But really, this is gallery is getting to be a little like a family. It would be nothing without my artists, and a lot of them are in this room. If they would all stand, I’d like everyone to clap for them.”

Later, four of those artists -- McGinley, Bradley, Gardar Eide Einarsson and Violette -- returned Freire’s good will, announcing, “José, you are our Dad.” Bradley had an appointment to catch a private jet leaving from the Teeterboro airport in New Jersey, heading for Kentucky, where he was planning to attend the Derby. He missed the music that started blasting later, out of some state-of-the-art ceiling speakers left by the storefront's previous tenants.

David Ratcliff, “Portraits and Ghosts,” May 5-June 8, 2011, Team Gallery, 47 Wooster Street, New York, N.Y. 10013, and Jakob Kolding, “Blocks,” May 5-June 8, 2011, Team Gallery, 83 Grand Street, New York, N.Y., 10013.

ELISABETH KLEY is a New York artist and writer.