Biography: Paul-Felix Montez
Artist, sculptor, writer, actor and visual designer for film, television, theme parks, theater.
BORN New York City 1950 -
Personal quote: "If you can see the box, your still in it".
An early adoption into an Italian American family led to Paul growing up in New York’s Little Italy and borough of Queens. There his grandfather gave him a book of Michelangelo’s anatomy drawings, which he copied endlessly. This opened the door for him to focus on form and its expressive movement in creativity. In grade school he was chosen for “The Children’s hallway Mural Project” for his grade school hallways depicting science and history.
When you live in a world of the arts, every day, every week some new and exciting form of emotional and physiological idea stimulation enters your life, changing it, renewing it, and inspiring a whole new world of creative possibilities to live in.
Paul attended the High School of Art and Design, studying set design, package design, illustration and advertising. There he excelled at history and was nominated for academic competition television shows. He proved to be a grade “A” student in his arts classes, though he was weaker in math. After-school and summer jobs led to him becoming a window display design assistant for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and Bloomingdales.
Paul was accepted into the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture where he excelled at sculpture, and became a shop instructor for metal working, welding, bronze foundry, wood working and ceramics, instructing fellow students like Joel-Peter Witkin, a major USA photographer in miniature model building.
He also began a series of special programs for minority groups which lead to him heading a special department for minority issues in enrollment. He redesigned the Cooper Union entrance exam, removing all racial and gender stereotyping or identification, instead focusing on talent, drive and creative artistic excellence. This was the beginning of Paul's social activism, he went a step further and set up a summer program for all minorities to be introduced to the school and its processes, to meet staff, to discuss goals and ideas and to learn about the details of school life. Minority enrollment and retention doubled as a result of the program.
While studying under conceptual artist Hans Haacke, Paul was introduced to the school's formidable lecture series, which allowed him to work with Buckminster Fuller on “The Nature, Purpose, and Environmental Survivability of Modern Architecture." He also studied with poets and writers such as Gregory Corso, Alan Ginsberg, and Norman Mailer.
Because of the endless hours Paul spent in the school shops, his student sculpture work led to exhibits in the Ten Downtown exhibition, the Fulton Street Pier sculpture exhibition and the 103 Reade Street Gallery in Tribeca. These exhibits were vital as they introduced him to people such as Hispanic pop artists Luis Jimenez, Mark Di Suvero, and John Chamberlain, and to conceptual artist John Van Saun with whom Paul would eventually co-create, “Bicycle Wall Crash” at the Museum of Modern art’s exhibit: “New Conceptual art 1974”.
Paul worked for John Chamberlain, whose insight into contemporary art is amazing: “Art only needs to be interesting, most of it isn’t.” While assisting Mark Di Suvero on a major New York sculpture installation in Zuccotti Park near wall street, he stated: “Art, is inverting things, ideas, methods, ways - anything and everything you can imagine”.
Continuing in this vain, Paul worked with Shirley Clarke, two time academy award winning independent underground maker of the film, “Cool World," and her daughter Wendy Clarke, an experimental video artist. Working for Wendy he designed and fabricated a series of innovative video camera mounted works for her exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
Working with Charlotte Moormon, cello performance artist who organized the New York advance guard festival with Robert Rasuchberg and Nam June Paik, Paul created temporary inflatable sculptures and video art works.
It was during this period under the employment of Bernard Bovasso's design studios that Paul was introduced to the theater and theater design. Bernard's sister Julie Bovasso, a four-time Obie award winner (Theater award off Broadway, presented by N.Y. Village Voice each year), hired him to design the sets for a number of Off-Off Broadway productions at La Mama Experimental Theater Club in New York city.
Julie urged Paul to join the cast of the production “Gloria and Esperanza” and through her encouragement and the exposure that two Obie theater awards bestowed on the production, he found himself cast in numerous other stage productions.
It is during this time that the first opportunity for film production and special effects design was presented to Paul when he was hired to work on “Pound,” a New York Independent film by Robert Downey Senior notable for the debut of Robert Downey Junior in his first acting role. Working on this feature film introduced Paul to the New York film underground, and the world of independent film makers like Able Ferrara, James K McCarthy and many others.
Paul's activity in the art world did not diminish, as he worked with Gordon Matta Clarke on exhibits in and on the Westside piers near Tribeca, and his work was displayed in the 122 Green Street Gallery in an exhibit called “Big Yellow” which involved the spray-painting of the entire gallery in taxi cab yellow.
While performing at La Mama Experimental Theater Club, Paul's introduction to Ellen Stewart led to his application for a new full-time repertory company to be formed by her. This company was based on a lengthy application system and gave CETA arts grants to individual members of the troupe. He won three CETA arts grants in a row, covering three years, which enabled him to expand his theater skills, and perform with such legendary directors as Peter Brook of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Andrei Serban, and to tour with the Bertolt Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble of Germany.
Working steadily in this company opened up his ability to write for the theater, and his first co-written production “Slow Poison, Small fires” won a Soho News Newspaper experimental theater award and the opportunity to study with James Kirkwood (two-time Pulitzer Prize winner).
Paul's first play premiered at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village, New York City, and starred William Hickey, a Herbet Berghof Studios teacher and academy award winner for best supporting actor in Prizzi’s Honor. Special support came from Christopher Walken, Academy Award winner for best supporting actor in “The Deer hunter.” The play was titled “When a Blackmailer Dies, He Turns Grey” and dealt with racism in American society and families. The play was a Pinter-esque re-examination of the world of America’s working class oppression, channeling this into a work based on racism as an illusion of the American dream being fulfilled at a great price to minorities. Village Weekly’s review: “Devastating dark comic look at racism’s place in America’s working class”.
Paul's first musical libretto “The Palooka,” a tale of American post war society told through the eyes of comic book characters, attracted the attention of Jack Eric Williams (Beale in the original Broadway production of Sweeny Todd by Stephen Sondheim) and led to the creation of the musical libretto for “Mrs. Framers Daughter” which was produced for the Pepsico summer festival, directed by Tony award-winning director Tom O’Horgan.
Considering that all this activity took place in New York’s Lower Eastside, and that Paul lived only a few blocks from La Mama E.T.C., the area's growth and the rise of gentrification led Paul to become a rent strike leader, organizing some 12 buildings containing over 900 people to successfully improve housing in the area and protect rent stability laws.
Through his rent organizer role Paul met and married published poet Susan Bartlett Montez, helping her to publish “N.Y. Image Magazine” (Listed in Ulrich’s guide of American magazine publishers).
In the 1980s Paul's acting roles increased in a long running production of Ray Bradbury’s “White Ice Cream Suit” at Off Broadway’s Jean Cocteau Theater in New York. He worked again Off Broadway in a First Class Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, playing two characters in a full length play which led to a New York Times review:
“Paul-Felix Montez creates an Apache whose tenderness is the source of his toughness and whose cunning self-questioning in a very limited vocabulary makes him a most attractive character. He is a powerful physical actor.”
Both roles opened the door to his appearing in featured roles in television series: NYPD Blue, Kojak, Quantum leap, and many others, while in feature films he landed roles in The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez, directed by Peter Sellers for PBS American Playhouse and starring Joan Cusack, State of Grace with Sean Penn, Ed Harris and Gary Oldman, FrankenHooker (director Frank Henenlotter), and others. Paul has landed speaking roles in over 45 film and television series to date.
With James K. McCarthy, he co-wrote the screenplay “Bodega” winning a NYC film commission award for best un-produced screenplay.
He also continued in set design for the Long Wharf Theater, New Haven, and appeared in "American Vault" by playwright Dennis McIntyre and others.
In 1990 Paul moved to Los Angeles and began acting in small featured roles in television and film, but gradually, the stereotyping of Hispanic American actors at the time limited the quality and number of such roles and he turned exclusively towards film visual production design and custom architectural design for luxury homes in Marina Del Ray, California.
The list of Feature films he worked on as a special effects live action sculptor were: Batman directed by Tim Burton, Congo, Men in Black, Showgirls, Cable Guy, Armageddon, Indian in the Cupboard directed by Frank Oz of The Muppets, and numerous independent feature films.
In television he worked with John Arthur productions (Webster series show runner, producer of many ABC TV series), infomercials design and writing at Glendale TV studios, Glendale Ca., and as a special consultant to “The New Adventures of Robin Hood”, from Weintraub/Kuhn productions, a Warner Brothers cable television series.
Paul's multi award-winning theme designs, casinos, retail stores, and museum exhibits led to
the opportunity to develop his own museum project for the city of Las Vegas for private downtown developers. With a glowing endorsement from Mayor Oscar Goodman, “The Gloves” - a fighting sports museum - would focus its main stories on humanitarian topics. The human story, the cultural and historic lives, both in and outside the arena had an impact on the sports figures' efforts towards civil rights, racism, and even anti-Nazism. For example, the Great Recession's vast economic collapse led to the withdrawal of developers and funding, and the project was shelved as a result.
Returning to his passion for social causes which was rekindled in the museum project, Paul created the Prayer Room Exhibition. New York Times journalist Samuel G. Freeman declared: “It’s extraordinary!”
At the same time Paul created a new series of large scale sculptures called the “coils series”, based on mathematical systems, and planned for installation in public art spaces. A suggested idea relating to the sense of physical movement in the works and forms moving visually like a modern dance, led to exactly that. After conceptualizing a new modern story ballet with Bruce Stievel, Peninsula Ballet company’s artistic director, Paul began the effort to create the Coil Ballet.
Inspired by the technology of interactive design and the internet, new projects that could possibly reach the world and the questions they raised became Paul's interest. The first effort was a new “Peace Symbol,” a proactive symbol which went viral, and was taken up by hundreds of street artists worldwide.
But it was exactly this juncture of technologies old and new and working on a global scale that led to the “Peace Walkway Project” which is now spreading globally. Recently the project led to a request for a TED TALK only six weeks after its on-line launch. Paul had not been able to sort through the insights that the project presented and so he will have to re-submit his new refined insights of his talk: "Can Technology Be Smart Enough to Be Wise in Our Cities".
Presently he has won the international Peace projects award given by Billion Acts for Peace and Google. This has resulted in The United Nations inviting him to speak at the U.N. in New York City to present his global vision at the World Peace day September 21, 2016, ceremonies.
He is also exhibiting his fine art conceptual works and creating new multimedia, large-scale public artworks utilising new technologies and furthering his global humanistic vision.
Links to individuals listed in biography:
Joel-Peter Witkin photographerHans Haacke, conceptual artistBuckminster Fuller, visionary architect engineerGregory Corso, poetAlan Ginsberg, poetNorman Mailer, novelistLuis Jimenez, sculptorMark Di Suvero, sculptorJohn Chamberlain, sculptorJohn Van Saun, conceptual artistShirley Clarke, film makerWendy Clarke, video artistCharlotte Moormon, performance artistRobert Rasuchberg, painter, sculptor Nam June Paik, video artistJulie Bovasso, actress. playwrightRobert Downey Senior, film makerRobert Downey Junior, actorGordon Matta Clarke, artistEllen Stewart, Theater producerWilliam Hickey, actorChristopher Walken, actorAble Ferrara, film directorJames Kirkwood, librettist musical theaterJack Eric Williams, actor, lyricist, composerTom O'Horgan, directorStephen Sondheim, lyricist, composerRay Bradburry, writerPeter Sellars, theater opera directorMikhail Baryshnikov, dancer, actorJoan Cusack, actorFrank Henenlotter, director filmSean Penn, actorGary Oldman, actorEd Harris, actorJames K. McCarthy, writer, producerJohn Aruthur, television producerMayor Oscar Goodman, mayorSamuel G. Freeman, journalist, authorBruce Stievel, ballet artistic director
Photograph 1978 World News Media Hoax
World Global Peace project award United Nations 2016 Special admission prize High School of Art & DesignFour year full scholarship Cooper Union3 CETA artists grants for theaterNYC film commission best un-produced screenplayNew York- Lower East side civic leadership AwardBEST Theme fantasy design Los Angeles MagazineBest theme fantasy design: L.A. Parents magazine
Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture New York CityHigh School of Art & Design, New York CityNew School for Social Research - Advanced Media manipulation and impact - Joseph Scaggs
Cooper Union, Shop instructor, metal, ceramics, wood working.
Sculpture and architectural model building.
Acting Head shot 1970's