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Ângela Ferreira taps architecture, history at DePaul Art Museum

Community anchor site for Chicago Architecture Biennial presents ‘Zip Zap and Zumbi’

Angela Ferreira
Ângela Ferreira’s “Zip Zap Circus School” references unrealized projects by architects Mies van der Rohe and Pancho Guedes. It will be on display at the DePaul Art Museum as part of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. (Image courtesy of the artist)

CHICAGO — Architecture, art and history will intersect this fall at the DePaul Art Museum in “Ângela Ferreira: Zip Zap and Zumbi.” Museum Director and Chief Curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm will organize the artist’s first U.S. solo exhibition in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The exhibition runs Sept. 7 through Dec. 10, 2017.

Ferreira’s work mines the complex historical relations that link African indigenous culture, slavery and European modernism. In this exhibition, Ferreira will bring together two projects that were never built: Mies van der Rohe's 1913 commission to construct a private museum and house in the Netherlands; and Portuguese architect Pancho Guedes' 1990s design for Zip Zap Circus School in Cape Town, South Africa. The exhibition includes documentary photographs, architectural drawings and a physical structure, which will become a platform for performances and community gatherings.

"Mies van der Rohe's modernism is synonymous with Chicago architecture,” said Widholm. “Ângela Ferreira's work offers a unique post-colonial perspective on this familiar subject, while connecting Chicago to a global conversation around the history and politics of architectural forms and materials," Widholm added.

In the heart of DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Campus, the museum will serve as an anchor site for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Ferreira's research-based investigations tap into the biennial theme, “Make New History.” "Ferreira's work as an artist allows us to consider the complicated relationship between art, architecture and social concerns in order to write new histories," said Widholm.

About the exhibition and artist
“Zip Zap Circus School” references two unrealized projects by modern architects van der Rohe and Guedes. Set in a highly politicized and socially explosive South Africa of the end of the 20th century, Ferreira uses sculptural and architectural materialization to comment on architecture as a catalyst for social change. By building a portion of Guedes’ architectural project as an artwork, the artist rendered the idea of the architect’s dream as a political act.

Angela Ferreira
Ângela Ferreira’s “Wattle and Daub” incorporates a sculptural screen and a structure and references a traditional African and Brazilian building technique. It will be on display at the DePaul Art Museum as part of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. (Image by Vera Marmelo, courtesy of the artist)
The installation “Wattle and Daub” uses a slide projection to depict a building once used as a slave market in the 15th century in Lagos, Portugal. Standing before the image is a sculptural screen constructed according to a traditional African and Brazilian building technique known as wattle and daub. With a soundtrack of a performer singing Jorge Ben Jor’s “Zumbi,” the work evokes the memory and power of the escapee slave communities in Brazil through the image of charismatic leader Zumbi dos Palmares.

Ferreira was born in Mozambique and raised in South Africa, where she obtained her MFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. She lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal, teaching fine art at Lisbon University. In 2007 she represented Portugal at the 52nd Venice Biennale.

Related Programs
Curator’s Tour
Sept. 28, 5:30 p.m.
“Ângela Ferreira: Zip Zap and Zumbi” curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm leads a tour through the exhibition, highlighting the artist’s approach to architecture and postcolonial history.

"One modernism? One history? One world?"
Lecture by Simon Sadler, Ph.D., University of California, Davis professor of design
Nov. 1, 5:30 p.m.
It is a paradox that much modernist art and architecture — which was so associated with universalism — actually began on the fringes and margins, in provincial places and vanguard practices. So if the history of modernism is so constituted by marginality, how do we further account for places and practices that remain stubbornly marginal? This talk will consider the case of Portugal, and its Mozambique colony, through the extraordinary figure of architect Pancho Guedes, interpreted in turn through the art of Ângela Ferreira.

Capoeira Workshop and Performance with Gingarte
Nov. 18, 2-4:00 p.m.
The martial art capoeira originated in the 16th century during the Portuguese slave trade in colonial Brazil. The resourceful combination of dance, music and acrobatics allowed enslaved people to practice self-defense tactics without getting caught. Gingarte Capoeira hosts a workshop and performance to teach participants about the martial art, culminating in a professional demonstration.

The museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 5 pm. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission is free. Additional information at​ or 773-325-7506.

About the Chicago Architecture Biennial
The 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial will be open to the public and on view from Sept. 16, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018. Press and professional previews will take place Sept. 14 and 15. The opening of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial will align with the sixth annual EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, which will run Sept. 13-17 at Navy Pier. The hub of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial will once again be the Chicago Cultural Center, located in downtown Chicago.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial announced an expansion into Chicago's neighborhoods by adding six museums and institutions that will serve as community anchor sites for 2017. They include The Beverly Arts Center, DePaul Art Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, Hyde Park Art Center, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. The community anchor sites were selected to display additional exhibitions that will complement the programming presented at the Chicago Cultural Center, the main hub of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. This year, The Chicago Community Trust is providing a $200,000 grant for the community anchor sites to support the development and curation of the special programs and exhibitions that will be on display for the duration of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

The manifestation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vision for a major international architectural event and an outcome of the comprehensive cultural plan developed by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events under the leadership of Michelle T. Boone, the inaugural 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial was presented through the support of BP, and in partnership with the City of Chicago and the Graham Foundation. Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda, co-artistic directors, curated the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, entitled “The State of the Art of Architecture.”

The Chicago Architecture Biennial’s mission is to provide a platform for groundbreaking architectural projects and spatial experiments that demonstrate how creativity and innovation can radically transform our lived experience. Through its constellation of exhibitions, full-scale installations and programming, the Chicago Architecture Biennial invites the public to engage with and think about architecture in new and unexpected ways, and to take part in a global discussion on the future of the field.

Sponsors and Special Partners of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial
The 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial is presented in partnership with the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and funded through private donations with lead support from SC Johnson, Presenting Sponsor; BP, Founding Sponsor; Marriott, Hotel Sponsor; and philanthropic support from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. This year, the Chicago Architecture Biennial will align with EXPO CHICAGO through a series of programs that establish the city as a preeminent destination for global contemporary architecture and art. The Chicago Architecture Biennial’s Signature Education Sponsor is the Chicago Architecture Foundation. For more information, visit


Correction note: Updated Aug. 30, 2017 to reflect the DePaul Art Museum's new hours. 

Julie Rodrigues Widholm

Media Contact:
Kristin Claes Mathews