On November 10, 2010, artists Greg Stimac and Blake Noah fried 100 pounds of bacon at New Capital for their performance 100 lbs. That same night at the East Garfield Park gallery, experimental musician Andy Ortmann recorded his Sound Composition for Four Motorcycles and Four Synthesizers, placing four motorcycles in the former industrial space and inviting their owners to rev their engines until they ran out of gas.
“It was super macho,” New Capital cofounder Ben Foch says.
“It was also kind of goofy and self-sabotaging,” cofounder Chelsea Culp adds. The couple, both artists and SAIC alums, often finish each other’s sentences. “The [sounds were fed] through the synthesizers, and it was just so ridiculous, but it was also really powerful.”
During its two-year existence, New Capital has hosted some of Chicago’s most unusual exhibitions and performances. At midnight on Friday 16, Culp, 28, and Foch, 34, end the gallery’s current incarnation with its most ambitious project yet: “24HRS/25DAYS,” which keeps the space open around the clock until December 12. At press time, the pair’s call for performance and exhibition proposals had yielded so many responses that they expect approximately 100 artists to participate, including contributors from New York, California, Utah, Texas and Berlin. (Culp and Foch welcome more suggestions and will post a program schedule at newcapitalprojects.com.)
“We just wanted to show the work that we wanted to see,” Foch says of New Capital’s start. “An artist-run space gives you a lot of liberty to make choices that an institution can’t make because of bureaucracy or that a commercial gallery can’t make because of market concerns.”
Such choices are evident in New Capital’s ongoing exhibition, “TANNATT/ SCHWARTZ.” (Its de-installation marks the beginning of “24HRS/25DAYS.”) On opening night last month, Los Angeles–based artist Mateo Tannatt presented 5x5x10, which requires ten musicians who have never performed together to play a five-minute improvised piece atop a 5' x 5' x 10' platform, then repeat the improvisation.
Culp and Foch paired Tannatt’s performance (and a video) with an installation of sculptures and other pieces by Mindy Rose Schwartz, who lives and works in Chicago and New York. While Tannatt often shows his work at commercial galleries, Schwartz’s C.V. is weighted toward nonprofits such as threewalls and the Hyde Park Art Center.
“It’s fun to put those artists together, because it complicates the conversation,” Foch says. Almost every New Capital show featured two artists whose differing practices generated a fruitful dialogue, complementing each exhibition with two performances.
“Sometimes this model has really worked out; sometimes it has been a real pain in the butt,” Culp explains. “It’s actually like having four solo shows in six weeks.” She and Foch emphasize that the gallery is its own “conceptual artwork” and that they consider curating an aspect of their artistic practices. They always knew their “experiment” would end after two years.
The decision to close New Capital by keeping it open continuously was influenced by conceptual artists such as Michael Asher, Gordon Matta-Clark and Rirkrit Tiravanija, according to Foch. He and Culp hope “to blur the boundaries between audience and participants and producers” with “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Once the show ends, the New Capital codirectors plan to compile a catalog of the gallery’s projects and to continue curating at other venues. If they use their Carroll Avenue space again, Culp says, “It will be in a new way. An idiosyncratic way.”
“24HRS/25DAYS” opens Friday 16.