At first encounter, Taro Ichihashi's new sculpture installation at Jack Rasmussen looks like a surreal game of musical chairs. Ten constructions are lined up back-to-back, each built from 1-by-2-inch strips of raw wood, and each a berserk, unsittable variation on the basic chair theme. Minimalist sculptor Sol Lewitt and his variations on the cube inevitably come to mind. But that comparison turns out to be more edifying for its differences than for its similarities.

Lewitt -- in his more compulsive, minimal days -- conceived variations on geometric modules that were so logical in their progressions that they could be built from a set of instructions by someone else. At first glance, one assumes that Ichihashi's art consists of similarly systematic variations. Close inspection, however, reveals no basis in logic whatsoever. These are purely whimsical works that have arrived at their final configurations by sheer intuition in the process of being built by hand. In suggesting the presence of a system and then subverting it, the artist seems to mock the notion that systematization could ever subdue human spirit and imagination.

His own spirit emerges more wistfully in a large wall drawing called "Lines of the Corner," in which clusters of crosshatched lines emerge from one corner and dissolve into the surrounding wall, implying a large rectangular field. A suite of three-dimensional works based on corner-shaped forms is less successful. Also on view upstairs are watercolors by several good gallery artists, with outstanding examples by Marianne Laroche, Tom Green and Marie Ringwald. The show continues through Nov. 28, and is open noon to 5, Tuesdays through Saturdays, at 313 G St. NW. Works by Wade Saunders

In his last show at Diane Brown Gallery, witty Wade Saunders showed several totem-like sculptures that monumentalized the tacky accouterments found in vans: teardrop windows, ugly draperies, CB radios and such. In his current show at Diane Brown, 406 Seventh St. NW, he polishes off that rather up-tight suite of work and plunges into another -- better -- one that takes better advantage of his skill as a conjurer in bronze.

Harking back to the floor-hugging environments he was making in 1977, Saunders again focuses upon making evocative miniature environments, but this time with small bronze elements hung on the wall, usually in threes. "On the Carpet," for example, consists of two semi-abstract figures and a small rectangular rug, its surface nicely worked with a carved and painted design. With these minimal means, Saunders has managed to engage the viewer's imagination and evoke an entire scenario: a man and woman lying on a rug, deep in intimate conversation. The overtones are likely to vary with the viewer.

Some of these narratives are just plain funny, others -- like "Big Dipper" -- are downright romantic. A few are one-liners that don't work. Overall, however, these are more delicate, more intimate evocations than before, and the challenge of conveying narrative content through combined real and abstract forms is met. The show continues through Dec. 3, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 6.