History of Art and Architecture

Marisol Villela Balderrama


Marisol researches the untold travels of art and artists between East Asia and Latin America in the postwar era. Before joining the program at Pitt, Marisol completed a four-year MA program at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, where her thesis documented the visits of Mexican artists to China in the 1950s and the touring of the Mexican National Front of Plastic Arts exhibition in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in 1956. This research was a crucial contribution to the exhibition Winds from Fusang: Mexico and China in the Twentieth Century, at the USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, and the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, Mexico City. 

Currently, Marisol examines Chilean artist José Venturelli’s mural and print production in China, Chile, and Cuba and the cultural bridges he helped build during the 1950s–70s across what was then known as the Third World. Marisol’s engagement with public art expands to the present. She collaborates in interdisciplinary projects that seek to connect academia at large, with a particular interest in emerging US Latinx communities. She is also a collaborator of the Hemispheric Conversations: Urban Art Program (HCUAP). She has taught at the Wuhan University and the Tecnológico de Monterrey and has research and curatorial experience at the MoMA and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. Among her broader research interests are transnational communist networks, socialist modernism, critical archival practices, and the Global South.

Education Details

PhD, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh, in progress

Certificates in Asian Studies, Latin American Studies

2019 MA, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
Advisor: Jennifer Josten
Thesis: Between Havana and Beijing: José Venturelli’s Mural Camilo Cienfuegos (1962)

2017 MA, Art Theory, China Academy of Art
Advisor: Gao Shiming
Thesis: The Arrivals of 1956: Socialist Modernism and the Artistic Exchange between China and Mexico in the 1950s

2012 MA, Contemporary Art History and Visual Culture, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Advisor: Isabel Cervera
Thesis: Spaces for Contemporary Art in Beijing: 1979–2012

2010 BA, Humanities, Universidad de Navarra

Selected Publications

“Doves and Machetes: Rina Lazo's Portable Mural Venceremos (1959) in Guatemala, North Korea, and Beyond,” Art History Special Issue: Red Networks: Postwar Art Exchange, Volume 45, Issue 5, November 2022, pages 1038-1057. Online

  • Winner of the 2024 Association for Latin American Art Article Award

“La llegada de 1956: el modernismo socialista y los intercambios artísticos de China y México en la década de 1950,” Arsovska, Liljana. América Latina y el Caribe y China: Historia, cultura y aprendizaje del chino 2019. Mexico City: Unión de Universidades de América Latina y el Caribe, 2019, 231–249. Online.

“Rina Lazo y Venceremos: una pintura sobre Latinoamérica y Asia,” Mareas Pacifico. Universidad del Valle (Cali, Colombia), December 2019. Online.

Selected Presentations

“Committed Prints and Poems by José Venturelli and Pablo Neruda, in Chile and in the World,” Pressing Matters: Prints and Political Activism in the 20th and 21st Centuries Symposium, LACMA and the Association of Print Scholars, Los Angeles, April 29, 2023. 

"Between Havana and Beijing: José Venturelli’s Mural Camilo Cienfuegos (1962),” Session: Transpacific Migration: Artistic Encounters between China and the Americas in the Long Twentieth Century, 111th College Art Association Conference, New York City, February 15, 2023.

“The Travels of Latin American Women to China (1952-1965),” The Global Sixties in the Global South, Stony Brook University, April 8, 2022. 

“Mexican Muralists in China: A Presentation by Zheng Shengtian and Marisol Villela Balderrama,” Asia Art Archive in America, June 9, 2021. Online.

“Bringing Latin America to China: José Venturelli’s Mural Camilo Cienfuegos (1962) and the Representation of Cuba and Chile for a Chinese Audience,” New Approaches to the History of Soft Power in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, History Department, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, December 11, 2020.

We Will Win: Rina Lazo’s Movable Mural and the Unexplored Narratives Between Guatemala and North Korea in the Early Cold War,” Worlding the Global: The Arts in an Age of Decolonization, Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis at Carleton University, Ottawa, November 10, 2019.

Selected Awards

Andrew W. Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship, University of Pittsburgh, 2022-2023 

Visiting Scholar, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University, 2021-2022

Chancellors Graduate Fellowship in Chinese Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2021-2022

Pitt Year of Engagement Grant, 2020

Marstine Prize for Outstanding Work in Public Humanities. Project: Disrespecting the Border: a Latinx Community Mural for Pittsburgh, 2020

Pitt Year of Creativity Grant, 2019

Research Travel Grants: World History Center, International Studies Center, Center for Latin American Studies, and Dietrich School of Arts & Science, University of Pittsburgh, 2019

Alfredo D. and Luz Maria P. Gutierrez Fellowship, 2018-2019

Chinese Government Full Scholarship for Master’s Studies, 2013–2017

Special End of Studies Award (First in Class), University of Navarra, 2010

Spanish Ministry of Education. Research Collaboration Grant for Undergraduate Students, 2009