John Baldessari among recipients of National Medal of Arts

John Baldessari is to receive a National Medal of Arts.

John Baldessari is to receive a National Medal of Arts.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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John Baldessari, the celebrated Los Angeles visual artist, will be among the 11 recipients of the 2014 National Medal of Arts that President Obama will present in a White House ceremony later this month, organizers announced on Thursday.

Baldessari will be honored along with musician Meredith Monk, tenor George Shirley, actresses Sally Field and Miriam Colon, novelists Stephen King and Tobias Wolff as well as fellow artists Ann Hamilton and Ping Chong.

In addition, two organizations will receive the medal -- the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the University Musical Society, a performing arts group in Michigan.


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The National Endowment for the Arts, which helps select the honorees each year, said that the ceremony will take place on Sept. 10 at the White House and will also be attended by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Baldessari, 84, was cited on Thursday by the NEA for his “ambitious work [that] combines photography, painting and text to push the boundaries of image, making him one of the most influential conceptual artists of our time.”

Born in National City, near San Diego, Baldessari has spent the majority of his career in Southern California and was the subject of a retrospective at the L.A. County Museum of Art in 2010 that later traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The medal that Baldessari and others will receive was the creation of another L.A. artist -- the late sculptor Robert Graham. The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government.

It was established by Congress in 1984, on the recommendation of President Reagan and the president’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.


While the NEA manages the nomination process for the award each year, the president actually chooses the recipients based on recommendations from the National Council on the Arts, the NEA’s presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory board.

In a statement on Thursday, NEA chairman Jane Chu said the honorees range across multiple creative fields and “have broadened our horizons and enriched our lives.”

Last year’s recipients included artist James Turrell, choreographer Bill T. Jones, composer John Kander, arts patron Joan Harris and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

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