A new Adam will be dedicated Monday.
Carved in limestone, he appears still dazed by the daybreak of creation as he seems to be walking out from under a confining Gothic canopy in the center portal of the Washington Cathedral.
"Adam" is the overture to a sculptural symphony that will transform the cathedral's west front into a new work of art, a work of our time.
The architecture is, of course, Gothic - a scholarly recreation of English architecture of 90 years ago.
But although the sculpture is fitted carefully into the Gothic framework, it is - in contrast to that of the south entrance - anything but Gothic.
It's style is intensely and sensually romantic - a powerful pendulum swing to the very opposite of Gothic as well as classic modern abstraction.
The sculptor is Frederick W. Hart, who was born 35 years ago in Atlanta.
Hart was working as a stone cutter at the Washington Cathedral when he heard of a competition for the west front sculptures. He entered and won. It is his first major work.
He has been at it for four years now and the whole job will take another three years or so to complete. It consists of three huge relief sculptures inside the portal arches above the doors (called tympanums) and three figures on the columns that divide the doorways (called trumeau niches). "Adam" is one of them and the only sculpture actually carved in stone. The two others are "Peter" and "Paul".
The prescibed theme of the sculptural ensemble is "the creation." Hart chose to interpret this theme in accordance with the theories of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest and paleontologist who died in New York in 1955.
De Chardin attempted to build a bridge between science and religion. He accepted the scientific explanation of the evolution of the physical universe out of nebulae and gaseous matter. But human beings, he argued, did not emerge as part of this evolution. They were created by God as a finished product, as it were, as intellectual creatures with a heart and mind, spirit and conscioness.
Yet, "in term of energy and biology," De Chardin wrote, "the human race is still very young and fresh."
"De Chardin's view of creation," says Hart, "allows me to make a contemporary statement with my sculpture."
Hart believes, in contrast to Marshall McLuhan and most "modern" abstract artists, that the statement, the message, is far more important than the art object, the medium.
He believes that art serves higher purposes than decoration or escape, that it must have meaning and that its meaning is "to seek beauty and truth and to explore and glorify the human being and universe."
Hart says this simply, conversationally - but also a little angrily.
"So much art today obscures rather than enlightens. In a morbid twist of morality, as if to strike back at the world for depriving it of purpose, it has made beauty ugly and elevated the ugly to a state of beauty. By depicting alienation, it has alienated us.
"Much modern art is contemptuous of the great mass of people who fail to understand its obscurities. But the artists fail to understand that their obscurities are contemptuous.
"It is time to revolt," Hart concludes.
But he is not interested in just talking revolt. He wants to do better, lead the way, "create the icons of the grand concept, aspiration, beauty and meaning of art," as he put it, his casual speech betraying its grandiloquence.
"I haven't spoken up before," he says. "But now I have something," he says quietly, as we looked at his "Adam."
In addition to "Adam," Hart has the almost completed full-size clay model of his tympanums in his studio in Northeast Washington.
Two of the tympanum reliefs, the smaller ones to the north and south, are, if you will, abstract. But they are not "non-representational." They represent "day" and "night" and in a turbulence of movement you can recognize the sun and the moon.
"Abstract versus figurative is not the issue," says Hart. "The issue is meaning.
"But I believe we can best 'rehumanize' art, give it meaning for people by using the human figure again as the favorite means of artistic expression."
The central tympanum is teaming with human figures - four men and four women with beautiful bodies, arranged as in a wild dance, thrwon about the turmoil of creation.
The figures are young, energetic, powerful and fresh, but not individual. A choreographer would also choose dancers who look more or less alike.
It is puzzling that the bodies, naked as they are, are so emphatically bodies of our time, although they are entirely lifelike, as "real" as photographs.
But classic Greek bodies, or Michelangelo's bodies, or Victorian bodies, or even Art Deco bodies of 50 years ago, although meant to be equally, photographically "lifelike," look different.
Does the human anatomy change - with changing diets perhaps?
Or is it only the perception of different artists at different times - the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times - which accounts for these anatomical changes? There is no absolute truth, no "realism."
The most contemporary or modern aspect of Hart's sculpture, however, is not that his figures meet our current ideal of beauty and nobility, but that nearly a century of abstract art is assimilated in his work.
The center panel continues the abstract depiction of the turbulence of creation, the hot motion of gaseous clouds and nebulae hardening to rock.
The human figures, with all their finished, sensuous smoothness, are part of it.
At any other period of art history the background would be emphasize and assert the human figure - man as created in the image of God. Hart makes his men and women part of the universe. As De Chardin theorized, they are present at the creation.
The heresy of human figures, more even than other "figurative" or "representational" art, still disturbs many abstractionist. The editors of a periodical on culture declined to publish Hart's work. They said they did not want "such fascist stuff" in their magazine.
Fascist and Stalinist art, to be sure, also depicted undressed human bodies. But those who cannot or will not see a difference between Hart's romantic figures and Mussolini's heroic klutzes, will hardly be able to see a difference between Botticelli's "Vennus" and a Penthouse centerfold.
For such people Mussolini, Hilter and Stalin won. Such people take a totalitarian view of art. And that is the end of art.
"Adam" will be dedicated Monday at 4 p.m. following a service led by Bishop John T. Walker. Work on the tympanum models will take Hart another five months or so. After that it will take about three years and five stone carvers, working under Hart's supervision, to cut them in stone.