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Al Pacino, Andre Watts among National Medal of Arts winners

February 10, 2012 |  3:41 pm

PacinoActor Al Pacino, pianist Andre Watts, visual artists Will Barnet and Martin Puryear and art philanthropist Emily Rauh Pulitzer are among the winners of the 2011 National Medal of Arts, to be bestowed Monday by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House.

Also announced Friday were winners of the National Humanities Medal -- including classical music scholar Charles Rosen.

The ceremonies will be streamed live Monday at 10:45 a.m. (Pacific) on the White House website.

Pacino, famed for wide-ranging film and stage roles that include the sympathetic gay bank robber of “Dog Day Afternoon,” mob boss Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” trilogy, and Shakespeare’s Shylock and King Richard III, is being cited for his “signature intensity” and as “an enduring and iconic figure, who came of age in one of the most exciting decades of American cinema, the 1970s.”

Watts, who is not expected to attend the ceremony, according to the White House, is being recognized as “a perennial favorite with the most celebrated orchestras and conductors around the world,” his performances marked by “superb technique and passionate intensity.”

Barnet, a New York City painter and printmaker who turned 100 last year, was cited for “nuanced and graceful depictions of family and personal scenes” that are “meticulously constructed of flat planes that reveal a lifelong exploration of abstraction, expressionism and geometry.”

Martin Puryear with That Profile Carolyn Cole photo
Puryear (pictured above with his sculpture "That Profile" at the Getty Center in Brentwood) had a touring retrospective seen in 1992 at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art; he's credited in the White House announcement for artistry that “transforms mundane and utilitarian materials -- wood, stone and metal -- into evocative talismans that quietly and powerfully explore history, culture and identity,” executed with “manual skill and traditional building methods [that] offer a seductive alternative to our increasingly digital world.”

Pulitzer was cited for her support of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Harvard Art Museums, New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis.

Other honorees are country singer and songwriter Mel Tillis and poet Rita Dove, as well as the United Service Organization (USO) for entertaining American military personnel “through hundreds of
events each year in 60 locations across 27 states and 14 countries.”

Among the humanities medalists, Rosen, who won a 1972 National Book Award for “The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven,” was cited for “his rare ability to join artistry to the history of culture and ideas.” 

The other humanities medalists are poet John Ashbery; literary critic Andrew Delbanco; historians Robert Darnton and Teofilo Ruiz, the latter a UCLA professor who studies medieval Europe; economist Amartya Sen; Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher and expert on African and African American literature and culture; and Ramon Saldivar, a Stanford literary and cultural author cited for his studies of Chicano literature and the development of the novel in Europe and America. The National History Day program also will receive the medal.

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Critic's notebook: Al Pacino shines as Shylock in `The Merchant of Venice'

Jasper Johns is first studio artist in 34 years to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

-- Mike Boehm 

Photos: Top, Al Pacino in a 1980 production of David Mamet's  "American Buffalo" at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn. Lower, Martin Puryear with his sculpture "That Profile" at the Getty Center in Brentwood. Credits: William B. Carte (Pacino); Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times.

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