Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography

The Tenth Arch

Seven Lectures





Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography by Robert Cremean



Manuscript Press was established in 1974 in Tomales, California, to publish the ideas and philosophical concepts of artists in a form closely approximating their original manuscripts and to create housings for them which honor those ideas and concepts. Manuscript Press moved to its present location in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in the spring of 2008.

The first publication of Manuscript Press, in 1974, was the Preparatory Study for Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography, by sculptor Robert Cremean, in an edition of two hundred signed and numbered impressions. It is very rare that a writer permits us to study his original unrevised and unedited manuscript and even more rare to have an opportunity to study the preparatory drawings and writings for a three dimensional work by a sculptor. With Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography we are permitted to experience, from the first three pages of searching to the final pages of resolution, the artist's graphic description of a three dimensional work. This manuscript provides us with the opportunity to read the artist's philosophical concepts for that specific work of art and to understand how these concepts are interpreted symbolically through the human figure. The actual work consists of ten separate arches, each spanning a period of three years, stands eight feet tall, ten feet wide and covers a distance forty feet in length. Because the basic philosophy - one man equals all men - is inherent in the work, the artist's non-specific autobiography contains and is an extension of our own. And because each of the ten arches in the Preparatory Study and in the completed sculpture spans a period of three years in the artist's life, the tenth arch was a projection five years into the future at last updated twenty two years later in the writing in 1995 and with the publication by Manuscript Press in 1996 of The Tenth Arch, the sculptural tenth arch realized in the form of a book.

Every artist who leaves evidence that he has lived and worked, no matter what the medium, leaves an autobiography. But to set out deliberately to create within that life-long autobiography a detailed self-analysis of who he was, is and may become has not, to our knowledge, been either attempted or realized on such a scale as that by Robert Cremean in his Narcissus Pentology. His choice to devote more than ten years to the creation of the Narcissus Pentology, an autobiography within an autobiography, is clearly set forth in his writings and in his sculpture, addressed both actually and metaphorically. The Narcissus Pentology consists of five parts each of which addresses itself to a particular view of the artist: Homage to Paul Apostle, in the form of a square, is a self-portrait as seen through the eyes of another; Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography, in the form of a rectangle, is how he sees himself; Glimpses of the Queen, 21 Studies for a Portrait of B.T. in the form of a triangle, is how he sees another; Sanctuary, Autobiography of a Studio Bench, in the form of a circle, is how he sees his work; and Curia, Nine Sectioned Lay-Ins With Predella, in the form of a line, is how he sees those who have created him. With the exception of the second part of the pentology, these are housed in the permanent collection of The Fresno Art Museum.

The second part of the pentology, Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography, is housed in the permanent collection of the Orange County Museum of Art.


Robert Cremean states the intent of both his Preparatory Study for Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography and for the then projected realization of it in sculpture on the fourth page of his manuscript:





Vatican Corridor: The enclosure of one metaphor by another - one culture by another - one time segment by another. "Paganism" is preserved through forfeit of genitalia - neutered by a figleaf. Miles of historical artifacts enclosed within an historical artifact. And yet there are a few presences that are not dead - not neutered. A few glimpses - Man existing without metaphor. A few Transparencies. Are these not worth the endless walk?

Vatican Corridor: An autobiography. One man=all men. The enclosure cannot exist without the enclosed. There can be no Inner without an Outer. No concept of "is" without a concept of "was." No "me" without "you." No "what" without "who." Vatican Corridor will be arches of myself. An attempt to correlate the "what" and the "who" - the inner and the outer - the spherical and the linear - the enclosed and the enclosure - the real and the actual within the realm not of metaphor but of Synonymity. Not a confrontation of opposites, but a confrontation of synonyms which create the Corridor of the self. Hopefully, these arches will signify - perhaps even become - Transparencies.

Vatican Corridor: One man=all men. Should this autobiobraphy then be specific? Are there identical moments in Everyman's life where there exists an arch between the '"who"and the "what"? Does a man become an historical artifact along the corridor of the self when he ceases to arch? Does he at this point become opaque and labled by himself and others who are himself? To be, in effect, "stored" within the enclosure of his own metaphor? "I am a communist!" "I am a capitalist!" I am a heterosexual!" "I am a homosexual!" even... "I am a man!", "I am a woman!"

Vatican Corridor: A non-specific autobiography. A confrontation of synonyms. An arched corridor of the "who" and the "what" - the outer and the inner selves - created not out of conflict but through transposition: the "who" feeding and nourishing the "what." The "what" created out of the substance of the "who." I visualize a dual transformation evolving along the outer and inner walls of the corridor. As the "who" or outer wall releases its substance to the "what" or inner wall, its volumes become concave, a waste-mold, a fossil, or a womb. The inner wall, the "what," would evolve from a geometric "blank" into a form dynamic and articulate within the structure of its own logic.....within the structure of synonymity rather than metaphor: "I am me, not because I am not you, but because I am."



In 1996, Robert Cremean completed the manuscript for The Tenth Arch, a sequel to Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography:

The Tenth Arch continues the Corridor, spans a period of twenty-two years and extends it into and is part of The Procrustes Trilogy, a major sculpture now in the permanent collection of the Fresno Art Museum. The Tenth Arch is constructed in the same form as the completed sculpture of Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography wherein the actual is in balance with the metaphorical, monologue with dialogue, history with parable.The pages of the left side of the book are a continuation of the Outer Wall, the pages of the right, the Inner Wall. The Outer Wall serves both as "laundry list" of actual events that have occurred during the twenty-two years after the completion of the carving of Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography, including the creation of the works completed during that time, their exhibition, notes on materials used in the making of them, and as a record of certain of his ideas and thoughts pertaining to them and of other matters at the time of their creation and exhibition. These ideas and thoughts are thereafter expanded and clarified in the fifteen Footnotes which follow within the Outer Wall. Some are very brief whereas others, such as the Ninth Footnote which is included in the central panel of first part of the Procrustes Trilogy, Procrustes in Situ, are "essays" in which philosophical concepts are discussed and analyzed in depth. The Outer Wall concludes with a Coda and an Apologia, the first a discussion of Art - both process and metaphor and in which he wrote:


What is being produced and delivered today in the name of Art simply hasn't the weight or density to forgive our lives. It is pretense in the name of process, parasitism without nourishment, fame without achievement. As artists, we are not up to the task. All the metaphors have changed and we have not the Desire to interpret them. We are being erased.


The Outer Wall of The Tenth Arch concludes with an Apologia, a personal statement about being an Artist, and about sculpture, and includes the following:


If we estimate an artist's creative life-span at thirty-three and one third years, then, according to earliest evidence, I am among the thousands that occupy the twelve hundredth generation. Little more than a speck, a grain of sand, a mote in hesitant light. Still, I am, and what I make is significant because if not made, the linkage ceases. And so I make, and, with thousands of other artists of my generation, ask: If not me, who? Every artist's life is an experiment and his works are a record of discovery. There are no failures...too easy answers, perhaps, and repetition, but no failures. One simply stops being an artist when one has no more questions.


The pages of the right side of The Tenth Arch are a continuation of the Inner Wall and transpose the Actual into the Real through metaphor. Employing the idea of the ancient papyrus papers which were written upon and then erased and written upon again and again, the memory of each writing thus held by the paper, the Inner Wall is a collection of Dialogues and Parables recorded on A Palimpsest in Five Erasures. Each of the erasures consists of five parts, the form repeated: Dialogue of the Eye and the I in which both the season and the I change; Artist and Other in which the other is at one time critic, another time patron, at other times a combination of personae; See-Saw which marks the time of day and the passage from childhood to old age; and two parables. Perhaps these Dialogues and Parables may be seen as a collection of metaphorical contracts: contracts with ideas, with oneself, and with others.

Published simultaneously with The Tenth Arch is a collection of lectures entitled Seven Lectures. The first six of the seven lectures were delivered by Robert Cremean during the decade of the 1960s and the seventh fifteen years after the sixth. The artist's introduction to Seven Lectures speaks clearly of his and their intent:


For the visual metaphorist, the distance between the I and the eye is a mindscape of possibilities. Works seem to materialize and actualize themselves in balanced compromise between that which is seen and that which is possible. Visions which obey no laws of physicality within the I's Inner Studio must comport themselves in accordance with the rules and regulations of physical certitudes when objectified within the space of the Outer Studio. Sometimes this transference - this compromise - can be a painful recognition of limitations.

This transfer from inner to outer is no less difficult for the language metaphorist. Though abstracted, physicality persists: gravity, density, flow, cohesion, weight - all exist and must be deferred to in the articulation of language. As a sculptor, I have come to love the tactility of words, the weight of phrases, the balance of sentences, and the infinite subtle coloring and contours of ideas. I love to write. I love putting it down, covering white planes with silvered lines of cadence. Rolling the pencil to avoid a slurring continuity. Erasing and building of palimpsest upon a single word ungrasped. The sweet persuasion of descending mass...and the walking lines of concept.

It is so like sculpture. No wonder in recent work words have begun wandering across the jotting walls of process. There is no barrier to restrain them....

Six of the lectures assembled here were written during the decade of my thirties and, correspondingly, the 1960s; a time of trying to find one's place in things:

For many metaphorists, the 1960s was a struggle for survival. Aesthetics were being replaced by relevancy on the stage of mainstream culture and all participants, whether spotlighted or in shadow, were ensnared in the drama. Cast in the role of effete elitist, I and others were invited, on occasion, to speak - to keep the play lively and, of course, realistic with a few cries of anguish, sentimental complaint, even, perhaps, an idea or two. When asked to speak, I seldom refused.

The lectures are dense, obscure even. Meant to impress. Convoluted at times and often pretentious. I was, after all, fighting for survival amidst the calculated and ruthless devouring of California's art scene by the New York establishment. If there is a bit of the blowfish at semblance here, so be it. I make no apology for being inedible.

The seventh lecture, written fifteen years after the sixth, is a coda of sorts. It lacks both passion and pretense. A "Take it or leave it. That's the way it is..." sort of thing. Obviously, what was found necessary to say had been said: Reality is a creative process.




The Preparatory Study for Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography was created during December of 1973 and January 1974 and published in April of 1974 by Manuscript Press in an edition of two hundred impressions signed and numbered by the artist. The original manuscript, now housed in the Robert Cremean Archives of the Fresno Art Museum, is spiral bound. The text and the countless drawings and notations are in graphite. These pages are reproduced so precisely through photolithography that it is difficult to distinguish them from the original. Like the original, the sixty page edition is spiral bound and measures l5"w x 17"h. The binding and slipcase, designed by the artist, are covered in white sailcloth and printed on Strathmore Rhododendron. The photolithography is by George Waters Color Productions, the binding and embossing by Cardoza-James and the typography set in Goudy by Joe Halton, Melvin/Halton, San Francisco. Manuscript Press retains a few copies of this edition which are currently available at $2,000 each.




The Tenth Arch was written by Robert Cremean during the spring and summer of 1996 and published by Manuscript Press in three separate and distinct editions. The first is an edition of twenty-one books, each containing an original drypoint engraving, Cicada Niche, printed on Arches 88 paper by Michele Burgess at Brighton Press. Printed on Zerkall Book, 145gsm white vellum, this edition was hand sewn and bound in undyed goatskin by David Brock who also designed and made the clamshell box which houses both the book and a CD of the artist reading the Dialogues and Parables contained within the text. The pages of the books were hand torn and each book is signed and numbered by the artist on the colophon page.This special edition includes a copy of the third edition and an additional CD and is available at $2,000 each.

The second edition of The Tenth Arch consists of two hundred books hand sewn and bound by David Brock and is printed on Mohawk Superfine, white eggshell 80lb. paper. Included in this edition is an embosed reproduction of the original drypoint engraving and the CD and is available at $250 each.

The third edition of The Tenth Arch consists of three hundred books smythe sewn and bound by the West Coast Print Center. It is printed on Mohawk Superfine white eggshell 80lb paper and includes an embossed reproduction of the original drypoint engraving. This third edition includes the CD and is available at $75 each.

The cover paper for the clamshell box of the first edition and for the cover of the second edition was handmade by Tim Barrett at the University of Iowa. This paper is based on the Italian papers of the 16th and 17th centuries that were used to cover books and is currently used by conservators in the restoration of such books. It is very durable and sensual to the touch. The paper for the endsheets of both editions is English, Merlin 80grs and 115grs, and is also handmade; the bookmark ribbon is silk and the interleaving over the drypoint is fine, handmade Japanese paper.

The cover paper of the third edition is English, Somerset Velvet Grey, as is the bookmark for this edition.

The printing of the 124 page text for each of the three editions was set in Bembo and printed letterpress by Patrick Reagh; the cover printing of the first two editions was set in Bembo and printed letterpress by Hal Trushke. Each book of the three editions measures approximately 5.5"w x 8.5h".




Seven Lectures was printed on 80lb Mohawk Superfine Eggshell White text and bound in 80lb Curtis Flannel Dark Grey cover by West Coast Print Center in an edition of five hundred copies. This eighty page book measures 7"w x 10"h and is enclosed in a jacket of 100% cotton handmade Italian paper and is available at $45 each.




Each of the three editions of The Tenth Arch and the edition of Seven Lectures is housed in a Manuscript Press box specifically designed for it.





Vatican Corridor, A Non-Specific Autobiography

The Tenth Arch

Seven Lectures

Manuscript Press

233 West Fifth Street

Studio A

Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27101




Lacunar: Procruste

Fresno Art Museum

Crocker Art Museum

Orange County Museum of Art