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Art in MIT Libraries: Second Floor Mezzanine (2M) Floor


Use this menu to explore the art in this guide by Library, floor location, and medium. 

Welcome to the Guide


Mumbo Jumbo by Betye Saar(1987), Color lithograph on paper.

Mumbo Jumbo by Betye Saar

1987, Color lithograph on paper, 22 1/4 x 28 1/2 in.

Purchased with funds from the Student Center Preview Program

Betye Saar is best known for her works in printmaking and assemblage that bring together themes of mysticism and ritual with family history and cultural politics. In the 1960s and 70s, Saar was afilliated with the Black Arts Movement in Los Angeles, a coterie of creative practitioners aligned with the Black Power movement, and many of her works of this period directly address racial and gender inequity, often repurposing racist ephemera as a form of reclamation. During this time, Saar collaborated with the poet, novelist, and playwright Ishmael Reed, the author of the influential Afrofuturist novel Mumbo Jumbo (1972), which follows a New York-based vodou practitioner.

The work on view shares its title with Reed’s book, and was made while Saar was an artist in residence at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (now ACT), nearly a decade and a half after her initial collaborations with Reed. The busy composition features a gridded textile-like ground of repeated images of fish, birds, and feathers, over which lager, glyph-like symbols are arranged. With its title referencing a phrase that, in English use, means incomprehensible language, but which traces back to a Mandinka word for a masked dancer in religious ceremonies, Mumbo Jumbo speaks to ways of encoding history and ritual in symbolic form.


Untitled by Willa Nasatir (2018), Giclée print.

Untitled by Willa Nasatir

2018, Giclée print, 17 1/4 x 14 3/4 in.

Purchased with funds from MIT Friends of Boston Art











Untitled (For 2003 Venice Biennale) by Fred Wilson, Photographic print that captures a woman in a head wrap in the front of the frame to the right and a city landscape as a backdrop.

Untitled (For 2003 Venice Biennale) by Fred Wilson

2003, Photographic Print, 20 x 24 in.

Gift of Dinaburg Arts, LLC

Fred Wilson is renowned for works that challenge assumptions of history, culture, race, and the conventions of museum display. In Mining the Museum (1992), a groundbreaking intervention at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Wilson reframed objects in the collection to demonstrate how collecting practices and methods of display implicitly uphold Eurocentric and white supremacist ideals.

For his solo at the Venice Biennale in 2003, Wilson produced a body of work attuned to the history of people from the African continent in Venice. Wilson’s photographic print Untitled (For 2003 Venice Biennale), appropriates an etching of a typical Venetian cityscape over which the artist superimposed a translucent painted image of a man with a medium-dark skin tone wearing a burgundy turban. The contemplative figure, possibly borrowed from one of the Renaissance paintings Wilson included in his installation, seems to float above the city’s lagoon and architecture, visible behind him. With this work, Wilson summons the under-acknowledged presence and influence of African immigrants and merchants, enslaved Africans, and their descendants on centuries of Venetian history, tradition, and visual culture.

Mixed Media

Chopin Mazurka in the Key of B by Ellen Banks, 1988, Acrylic and handmade paper on paper

Chopin Mazurka in the Key of B by Ellen Banks

1988, Acrylic and handmade paper on paper, 23 x 16 3/4 x 1 1/2 in.

Purchased with funds from the Student Center Preview Program










V paměti zdi [In the Memory of Walls] by Jiri Kolar. Image distorted as zigzag against a light pink background

V paměti zdi [In the Memory of Walls] by Jiri Kolar

1980, Collage, 16 1/2 x 14 1/4 in.

Gift of Alan M. May