Artists have put paper to good use since it was invented. They have drawn, painted and printed upon it, cut, pasted and collaged it, and, recently, begun making and molding it into sculptural forms. Those new forms have been among the more interesting recent developments in art.
A sampling of what is now being done in the medium both here and in New York is the subject of "Paper," an invitational group exhibition just opened at Gallery 10, 1519 Connecticut Ave. N.W. While the subject remains considerably larger than this show, there are enough good works to merit a visit.
Sam Gilliam is among the headliners, with three small crushed, painted and highly evocative sculptural works. Susan Weil -- one of the most inventive artists working in the medium -- comes off here, however, looking like a Gilliam imitator.
In a gallery festooned with cutout painted forms and curlicues by Walter Kravitz, it is the traditional, grid-based drawings by Ellen Frances Tuchman, made with colored pencil and sewn thread lines, that offer the most pleasure. Sarah Stout Gooding and Andrea Way have also incorporated everything from silk threads to asparagus leaves into their handmade paper to produce delicate poetic works.
The exploration of new forms -- and new scale -- is represented. Baltimore artist Ingrid Cromel Rehert has reiterated the monumental potential of pencil and hughe swirls of paper suspended from the wall in a striking six-part work called "Endless Series," while Hilda Thorpe's frothy white gauze-and-pulp amalgam breaks new ground. Mirella Monti Belshe has used wet tapa bark paper to reproduce the forms of classic sculpture, then suspended these bodies-in-bark over a racklike form. The show continues through Jan. 26.
Carroll Sockwell, who has exhibited widely in galleries here, is showing one of the more effective works, also new work, at Barbara Fiedler, 1621 21st St. NW. There are a few characteristic gestural abstract drawings, but it is the small collage-constructions that provide the current excitement.
These compositions, made from small layered rectangles and triangles of wood -- some old, some aged with paint -- first read as pure cubism. But further looking reveals that the artist has transformed them (or at least the best of them) into highly evocative works through unifying calligraphy and haunting color. "Strange Magic," one of the more effective works, also best describes the impact of his finest examples.
Several "junk" collages made from crushed beer and coffee cans have considerably less to recommend them. The handsome mounting of the show, however, merits special notice. Through Feb. 1.
Buying prints is easy. Selling them isn't. To make it easier, Gallery 4, 115 S. Columbus St., Alexandria, has begun holding consignment sales each January, and for two dollars will include your old print in the show. If it is sold, the gallery will take a 20 percent commission -- not bad compared to current dealers' commissions.
While works are still coming in, several prints by early 20th-century Americans such as John Taylor Arms, Samuel Chamberlain, Peggy Bacon, Isabel Bishop and Armin Landeck are already on view. Some Europeans, among them Daumeir, Redon and Max Klinger, are also included -- all caveat emptor. The show continues through the month.
If visiting more museums and galleries is on your list of New Year's resolutions, but you don't like going alone, the Arlington YMCA has a happy solution. It is offering a series of once-a-month Wednesday forays called "Exploring the Washington Art Scene by Metro," under the able guidance of National Gallery and Hirshorn docent Gertrude Friedman.
Small groups will visit a museum or gallery of special interest on the fourth Wednesday of each month, beginning with the Thyssen Collection at the National Gallery on Jan. 30. The fee for four tours is $25, which benefits the Y. A visit to New York museums and galleries is being planned for May. Call 243-5810 for further information.