Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2012 Issue

Book Paintings on a Huge Scale

Bookartmontez

A book larger than life.

“One day I and a very good friend of mine talked about old book stores and old books, and jokingly I said: 'if only there were a way to keep them alive, show people the value and beauty, and at the same time show that all we call important in the present has not changed when it comes to human values, and the search of deeper meaning in our lives.” So begins a remarkable journey to that place where books and art intersect. We have seen this before in the book arts – books of great beauty and design, fine bindings, private press works. They are works of art more than text. Artist Paul Montez has also reached this intersection of two worlds, but from a different starting point.

Mr. Montez is a painter. He is a painter who appreciates the role books play in our lives as much as a bookman. It was that connection that led him to immortalize books in works of art, rather than works of art in the form of a book. He paints books. These are not mere portraits of some books on a shelf. Mr. Montez will paint a cover, a title page, an illustration, from a specific book. Some paintings may include several such pages.

His paintings are not life size. These are, quite literally, larger than life. A page may be over 7 feet high. A painting displaying three pages can be 18 feet long. You will not need your reading glasses to appreciate these books. They are more like murals in a frame than a typical painting. For those not ready to invest in a painting of this scale, Mr. Montez also offers his book paintings as prints.

Art on a large scale is nothing new for Paul Montez. He has been creating large scale works of art all his life. Among his most notable works are huge coil sculptures, far taller than a person. Think of a massive, somewhat twisted slinky. These abstract works are totally riveting.

Motivated by a “love of books” and showing how they impact us in a new way, Mr. Montez began painting these images that would put even a double elephant folio to shame. He explains, “it is a great joy, keeping alive the actual physical worlds of books, and the choices and interests and thoughts writers and authors published in the past.” The works have similarly touched his clients. He is able to quote one, who explained, “they have universal meaning, they are provocative and make me, and others stop for a moment, ponder the place this book had in past lives and our lives now. They are modern art, there is so much going on with these paintings.”

Mr. Montez describes his painting techniques as presenting “a contemporary quality, tiny drips, looser brush strokes, in keeping with contemporary artists like Jasper Johns. They are not 'photographic' reproductions, but artistic reflections and finely detailed accurate approximations of book pages. In this way they further reflect their source materials and contemporary reality in our present day lives as unique large scale art works.” He adds, “As for the prints, the same or similar reactions and thought provoking interactions take place with those who have purchased them.”

The paintings are 7 feet 6 inches tall. Prices start at $7,000 for one of a single page. The price for one of three pages, which runs 7 feet 6 inches tall by 18 feet long, is $26,000. The added cost beyond the size multiple reflects that the wood framing stretcher bars need to be custom made. Paintings employing gold inlays or leafing are somewhat more expensive. Smaller paintings may be commissioned, but the minimum height is 5 feet. The artist does not work on a small scale. Prints are somewhat smaller. They are 3 feet 9 inches tall with lengths up to 7 feet 6 inches when three pages are displayed. Prints start at $2,200.

Mr. Montez notes that the paintings fit any décor, classic or contemporary, “for the book lover, or those desiring a meaningful work of art which addresses the question of who are we and what we think.” They are suitable not only for individuals (preferably ones with rooms having a large wall), but for institutions, offices, and corporations. He points to a comment by an interior designer: “they straddle the past and now, in a meaningful way, and they are also original art works for those who have everything, including a love of books.”

Paul Montez' paintings and prints can be viewed at the following website: www.bookartnew.com.

His spectacular sculptures can be seen here: www.sculpturenew.com.

For questions concerning the paintings and prints, pricing, commissioning a painting, or other interests, the artist can be contacted at his email address: lvbigart@earthlink.net

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