So this is the dogged pursuit of art. Take, for example: "Spotted

So this is the dogged pursuit of art.

Take, for example: "Spotted Dog," "Mannequins With Dog," "Hell Hound," "Poochy Projects Into the Astral Plane," "Dogs at the Beaux Arts," "Dog-Antler at Water's Edge," "Poodle Romp," "Doggie Duet."

The canine is king this month at Gallery K, 2032 P St. NW, where 62 works by more than 45 artists have come together for the ultimate dog show. The gallery owners got the idea last July, and initial response from invited artists was slow, but by late fall, well, the place was a veritable pound for paintings and sculpture. Much of it is quite good, and almost all of it is a lot of fun.

Ed McGowin's "Birthday Dog" is a devilish animal, a honey-colored, four-legged creature with horns and wings that belie the placid little canine face. He grins, standing behind a seven-candle birthday cake. But Richard Mize's shadowy creature in "It Spread Slowly . . ." is a dog of a different color. White. Without any features at all. Moving like the fog through a room.

The little pup in Fred Folson's "The Bitch and My Barbecue," looks sweet as a fawn. But half a sandwich hangs out of his mouth, and his master lunges across the table to save his lunch. No luck. It's as good as gone.

As usual, there is a work with a moral. "I Don't Let the Dog Lick My Face -- He Has Germs," by Lisa Brotman, is the maternal-sounding lesson, only this time the teacher isn't the most maternal figure in the world. It's a half-nude woman wearing thigh-high socks, an elaborate blouse with billowing sleeves, a hood with six spikes and that's it. The dog, standing nearby, looks happy to be left alone.

The show continues through Jan. 10.

Stephen McKenna, a 41-year-old British artist now living in Brussels, has made the examination of history and of conflicting ideas his obession. In a show at the Sander Gallery, 2600 Connecticut Ave. NW, his recent paintings and watercolors demonstrate the power of contrdictions and the surreal images they can create. "The Ear of Sculpture" is Magritte-like in the way the banal is elevated to monument. A huge, fleshy ear hangs on a wall above a carved marble mantle. On the mantle is an open book resting on a fluffy pink pillow, next to a bluish egg-shaped object. Technically, the painting is quite expert; and questions and mystery that it creates are more interesting than any possible answers it might provide.

But providing answers is not the issue for McKenna. He is more interested in the power of the questions, especially when those questions involve historical issues. In "The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs," he pains a segment from the Elgin Marbles that is a backdrop for what seems to be a contemporary bacchanal. The backdrop is stony cold, painted in icy beige; in front of it is a table laden with the elements of celebraton: bottles of wine, jewels, sensuous fruits all painted in rich, hungry colors that contrast rather dramatically with the monochromatic but quite violent battle scene behind. The exhibition is on view through the end of January.

Joseph Cornell knew the power of inimacy. In his small magical boxes, hung on walls or set on tables, he used a few images, used them with precision and delicacy and allowed them to billow out through the imagination into the whole worlds. Madolin Teal Cervantes, 24-year-old Washington artist, seems to have learned from Cornell's work with some degree of success. aSimilar in form, but different in tone and intention from Cornell's work, her boxes and collages are on view at the Barbara Fiedler Gallery, 1621 P St. NW.

In both content and technique, some of the works lack the finesse of a mature artist; some are slightly tentative and, a couple of times, somewhat vulgar. And yet there is the kind of energy and imagination at work to make her more than worth watching in this, her second solo show at Fiedler. Some of the boxes are music boxes, darting at the senses in more than one way. She makes a head-on attempt at whimsy and while the effort is once or twice a bit strained, other times, as in the "We're All Mad Now," a box based on Lewis Carroll's fantasy world imagery, she succeeds with remarkable delight.

In addition to the Cervantes show, Sam Ogden exhibits his steel sculptures based on prisms at Fiedler. But the minimal contructions that sprawl into space -- and steel prisms rising in a linear flow off a base -- neither break no new ground nor establish any new ways of seeing.

Joseph Holston and Michael Carter share the spotlight at Nyangoma's Gallery, 2335 18th St. NW. It's a gallery new to the Washington art scene this year and specializing in art by local, national and internationally known black artists. The gallery is promising, if this show is disappointing. kCarter's watercolors are explorations of fragmentation of landscape -- both natural and urban, as in "Inner City," a look at the look of what man has made. Holston's oils are figurative, often of dancers in elegant stretched poses that ease their way across the canvas. The exhibition is on view through Jan. 4.