Though Washingtonians are surrounded by monumental public sculpture, they rearly have been inspired to buy contemporary sculpture for themselves. "Dealers have been afraid of sculpture because, traditionally, it has not sold," says gallery owner Diane Brown.

But the market is changing, and Brown has recently opened a separate space for large sculpture at 52 O St. NW.

Now on view both there and in the Diane Brown Gallery, 2028 P St. NW, are several works by Los Angeles sculptor Michael Todd, highly calligraphic pieces which combine the robustness of welded and bolted steel with the delicacy of Japanese flower arrangements. "Ikebana," appropriately, is the overall title of this show.

Todd usually begins with a huge, circular gesture, making a drawing in space from tubular steel, against which he then arranges clusters of bent, cut steel scraps much as one would intuitively balance a bouquet. He then finishes off his compositions with a flourish of curlicues which add spatial complexity to the basically frontal axis.

Though some of the large pieces could be called decorative, they are nonetheless most satisfying to look at. Smaller pedestal and wall-hung peices on view deal further, though less successfully, with the idea of sculpture as painting or drawing. "Ronin XV" is the most fully realized. The show continues through May 31, with the sculpture space open by appointment only.

Maureen McCabe is a collagist of fine and slightly bizarre sensibilities whose work has been see often before at Gallery K, 2032 P St. NW. In her current show, she continues to assemble tiny bits of glitter, thread, rubber stamp figures, old printed matter and feathers (her hallmark) into well-ordered but mysterious compositions, often autobiographical in content.

In the best, and earliest, of the works on view, McCabe uses old-fashioned, hand-held school slates as background, some of them carved into relief. The bulk of this show, however, consists of new, somewhat larger collages in plastic boxes, interesting to explore, but lacking the visual intensity of the smaller works. When she moves to very large scale-as in two pieces on view here-all is lost. The show continues through May.

Last winter, Washington painter Frank Wright organized a two-day Salon des Inconnus, a show of young area painters whom he considered worthy of more attention than they were getting.Many were teaching art at George Washington University. One of the best was 28-year-old John Morrell, who now is having his first solo exhibition at the Georgetown Art Gallery, 2611 P St. NW. Wright's faith is here amply confirmed.

Morrell is a landscape painter in the painterly tradition, here dealing objectively but tenderly with the subdued forms, color and light of the French landscape and coastline, observed while teaching at GW's Summer in Brittany program.

"Breton Fields" and "Cliffs at Brezelec" are particularly strong, as is a view of clothing blowing in a gentle breeze on the beach at St. Nic. Scenes of the quais of Paris and the Luxembourg Gardens will warm the heart of any francophile long since fed up with "tourist" art which has given French landscape painting a bad name in recent decades. Prices are extremely modest. The show closes today, but can be seen in the gallery through June.

Intuitiveye Gallerye, 641 Indiana Ave NW, is showing the work of San Francisco photographer Robert M. Haft who deals with visual conundrums which are worth puzzling out, for the most part. A commanding Buckingham Palace guard in full regalia, for example, appears to be standing in an ambiguous and incomprehensible space, until one realizes that this is not a real guard, but alarge photographic poster of a guard hanging from a doorway.

In other works, photographic metaphors explore mysterious juxtapositions, such as the foam within three glass-doored washing machines sitting on a foam-lapped beach. Haft gets a bit obvious at times, but he only goes overboard when he turns a reflected image upside down in order to confound. Anybody can do that. An artist shouldn't have to. The show continues through May 24.

Most photography galleries deal with vintage or contemporary black-and-white "art" photography. Photo-Graphics proprietor, attorney-photographer Steven Gottlieb, defiantly insists, however, that equally beautiful but as yet untapped treasures exist among the color landscapes, nature studies and abstractions like Robert Madden and James Stanfield of National Geographic, and photo-journalists like Fred Maroon, Nicholas Foster and Warren Krupsaw. His one concession to black-and-white is in the exquisite nature photography of George Tice.

In their handsome new space at 1522 Connecticut Ave, NW, Photo-Graphics has now added giant abstract images which turn out to be various points on the globe as seen from earth satellites 580 miles up. Combined with the photomicrographs of chemicals by Mortimer Abramowitz, the collection now covers the micro and macro of the visible world.

Corporate offices, law firms and interior designs are likely to find interesting photo-mural possibilities which are not available elsewhere in Washington. There is also a wide range of inexpensive historic photographs reproduced from the collections of the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.

There are several other photo shows worthy of note at the moment, inclduing Cynthia Brumback's provocative show "Construction Site, Russian Embassy" at Wang Ming Gallery, 408 8th St. NW, through May 19. Sander Gallery's new group show at 2604 Connecticut Ave. NW, celebrates publication of their first catalogue, which alas did not arrive in time for the celebration. It is a worthy show nonetheless with amusing and poetic images by German photographer Heinrich Riebesehl and a menacing caged lion by Rosalind Solomon among the highlights. Through May.

In her new space at 3020 K St. NW, in Georgetown, Kathleen Ewing is showing "Diana" photographs by Nancy Rexroth and Richard Procopio. Made with inexpensive toy "Diana" cameras, the images have a distorted, dream-like quality. Through June 14. CAPTION: Picture, "Daimura IX" by sculptor Michael Todd