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Sunday, April 15, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Young's Creations Are Pretty Heavy Stuff

John T. Young, sculpture, on view through April 29 at the Davidson Galleries, 313 Occidental Ave. S. 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. 624-7684.

A forklift truck ground in and out of the Davidson Galleries last week, carrying in the multiple tons of John T. Young's stone sculptures. There are just five works in the show - counting the ``Temple of Floating Stone'' installed in Occidental Square in front of the gallery.

Even if you haven't been down to Occidental Square, the odds are fair that you've already seen one of Young's pieces. And dismissed it as a gag. It's a 1973 Plymouth Fury with the trunk whomped in with a rock the size of Rhode Island.

Young calls it ``Plymouth Rock.'' He drives it to Seattle Center and to various parking lots around town - getting three miles to the gallon with his 1,100-pound load - listening to comments like ``That must have been a hell of a hail storm!''

Police have paced around the car, pondering whether they should ``do something'' about it. But there's nothing illegal about ``Plymouth Rock.'' The half-ton stone is within the weight rating of the car.

``Sometimes people honk at me and point at the trunk, as if they thought I didn't notice what had happened,'' Young said.

``Plymouth Rock'' is just one of many ways Young makes weighty stones appear to fly. He does it with steel cables in ``Temple of Floating Stone'' - a group of six granite boulders each weighing nearly 700 pounds, held in midair on taut cables.

The gravity-defying look is a reappearing motif in Young's work. In the Davidson show, a slender steel platform holds aloft the 16-foot long granite ``Aquaduct,'' whose broken edge floats off the end like the extended leg of an airborne dancer.

In ``Cantilever Layback,'' a 5-foot long ``needle'' of black marble, held in tension with a steel cable, floats a foot off the ground, with its point piercing a smooth concavity of white marble. A black balance stone anchors it.

In addition to its satisfying visual thrust and balance, ``Cantilever Layback'' carries a romantic history. The sliced curve of white marble is a negative form left from a pillar cut long ago for the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C. Young pulled it from a quarry in Marble, Colo. - a quarry cursed by the Indians whose homes were displaced when a Vermont company arrived to quarry the marble a century ago. A series of catastrophes have since plagued the quarry, but the curse reportedly has not followed individual stones cut from it.

Young is steeped in such lore, intoxicated with the interactions of man and nature. His sculptures place natural and man-made forms in intense relationships, as rock and steel balance and hold each other. Man and nature, they show us, are interdependent.

His work is rich with incidents of destruction and reintegration. ``Basacolumbia No. 3,'' a massive, multiple-cracked boulder of Columbia River basalt, is held like a jewel in a steel setting that nets its cracks, holding it in healing embrace. Young lightens both its look and its actual heft by gouging chunks from it, exposing fresh interior skin quite unlike the lichen-crusted exterior - as if he had violated its heart.

The Davidson Galleries show will close April 29, but the ``Temple of Floating Stones'' will remain in the Occidental Square mall through October, in celebration of the Goodwill Games.

It's a fitting showcase for Young, whose inventive work deserves to be better known. Despite the fact that he is an associate professor of art at the University of Washington, who shows regularly at the OK Harris Gallery in New York, this is Young's first solo exhibition in Seattle.

His reputation is growing. Young just completed installation of a block-long commission for Portland's Pioneer Place. Titled ``Soaring Stones,'' it consists of six pieces of granite placed along Fifth Avenue, in front of the new Sak's Fifth Avenue store that's slated to open several months hence. The first granite stone is sunk into the pavement. Each subsequent piece rises higher, topping out at 11 1/2 feet, held aloft by stainless-steel columns polished to mirror finish - as if they were taking off into flight.

Rather like Young's career.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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