What do you call the person an artist lives with? Well, if the new show at Fendrick has spotted a trend, the answer could be "another artist." Cohabiting artists -- those who've tied the knot, and a few who haven't -- are the focus of Fendrick's current offering, "Couples in Art." Beyond their living arrangements, most seem to have little in common artistically.

A possible exception is the bright young husband-and-wife team of Genna Watson (who showed earlier this year at the Corcoran) and John Dickson, who no doubt battle from time to time over the scraps of raw wood they both employ, though to very different ends.

Watson is represented here by a typically eerie and provocative sculptural assemblage that looks like a half-real, half-constructed dig; while Dickson's wholly abstract "Sonoran Lyre" is as beautiful as anything he has made -- a sweeping, fanlike curve constructed from mere dowel sticks, lumber, paint and rhoplex. Despite its brashness of surface, Dickson has created a work of great elegance, and therein lies its magic. He is currently also showing, in tandem with Ed Mayo, at the Corcoran.

Ed McGowin and Claudia De Monte are another well-known married couple hereabouts. A few of De Monte's amusing "Claudia Dolls," (shown earlier this year at Foundry) cheerfully confront viewers on their way up the stairs. McGowin is represented by a major, room-filling installation entitled "Dad Knew About Wine."

It consists of a ceiling-high, galvanized steel "house" pierced by tiny openings through which one sees a tableau consisting of a chair, several photographs and a large assortment of fine wine bottles. A red light washes the scene with the glow of romantic recollection.

John Buck from Montana also creates narrative tableaux, but with social comment as his goal. In a cut-out wood piece that looks like a stage flat, he presents us with an elusive tale in which a Ku Klux Klansman's hood emerges from a sewer, snagged by a grappling hook. The title, "Justasnag" is a pun on "Justice Snag," the subject of this allegory. His work has virtually nothing in common with that of the artist with whom he cohabits, his wife, Deborah Butterfield. She makes horses from twisted wire and sticks that seem close in spirit to the work of Genna Watson.

A pleasant surprise comes in the form of two nudes by Alan Feltus, a Washington painter who shows (and sells) in New York, but rarely here. The work has great presence, and more of it would be welcome sometime soon.Also of special interest is a spectacular (and very comfortable) giant "rocking bird" (or "Bird Rocking Chair") by Francois and Claude Lalanne, the only artists in this show who actually take the big risk and work together. t

There are other examples by gallery regulars Joseph Raffael and Robert Arneson, whose wives have tagged along. New talent ranges from Franz Spohn's funny facsimile of as "Lucky Strike Bubble Gum" package (made from tiny pieces of candy) to Walter Erlebacher's disturbing cast-lead sculpture portraying Apollo as an aged cadaver. It's all worth seeing before the show closes June 28.

Sculpture seems to be sprouting everywhere in Washington, all part of the 11th International Sculpture Conference, which convenes here Wednesday through Saturday.

Major outdoor works by Lloyd Hamrol, Nancy Holt, Ron Bladen, Issac Witkin, William Christenberry and Walter Dusenbery are already in place, with many more -- including a Nevelson in front of the Corcoran -- due early next week. The cranes have been working overtime.

Concentrations of outdoor work can be seen across from the Corcoran, in the 17th street parks between New York Avenue and Constitution Avenue; on the Forrestal Building Plaza and on the Botanic Gardens grounds. In addition to these outdoor installations, no fewer than 64 indoor sculpture shows in local museums and galleries will vie for the attention of the 2,000 artists, collectors, teachers, students and curators expected to attend the three-day sculpture festival.

Seminars and panels on everything from "Artists' Rights: Sculpture and the Law," to "New Directions of Sculptural Criticism" and "Criticism of Sculptural Criticism" will be open to registrants only, though a registrant in this case is anyone willing to pay the $125 fee ($80 for students). Registration can be arranged by calling 466-4630.

But no fee at all is required for several events, including the opening ceremonies at the Sylvan Theater (Monument Grounds) Wednesday evening at 7. Rockne Krebs' laser piece, a highlight of the conference, will be activated around 9 p.m. that evening, and will remain on view several hours each night, through July 6.

On Thursday and Friday from 9 to 5, and Saturday 9 to 12, demonstrations of metal forging, enlarging sculpture, sand-molding and other technical mysteries will be given free, on the Mall, adjacent to the Air and Space Museum, between 3rd and 4th streets SW.

Thursday evening between 7 and 10 p.m. the P Street Strip, between 20th and 21st streets NW, will be blocked off for a "P St. Celebration," and simultaneous openings will take place in more than a dozen nearby commercial galleries.

"Final Day," Saturday, from 9 to 6, could turn the usually sedate Mall into a madhouse. Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman and his flock of 20 sheep will be just one of several "Placements and Performances: Works for Washington," a whole day of ephemeral events that will happen and end, leaving no trace. With the possible exception of the sheep.