Paul Mellon, Duncan Phillips and Joe Hirshhorn all have been portrayed in paint and bronze. Now they've been immortalized in wool by Washington artist Leslie Kuter. The giant, hooked-wool mural titled "The Art Lovers" is on view in Kuter's show at Addison/Ripley Gallery.

Continuing to perfect the rug-making technique with which she has long portrayed friends, baseball players and famous paintings, Kuter is now making movable murals of increased size, complexity and importance. They embrace their subjects and more.

There is, for instance, a small and lovable hooked version of a Rembrandt self-portrait, and another depicting a baseball catcher squatting incongruously in the middle of a scene from Vermeer. But it is the larger works that suggest a breakthrough in Kuter's art--an opportunity at last for her to combine her two great passions, art and protest.

Though the overly cartoony "Art Lovers" has its charms, it is "Death of Mark Rothko" that stands out as the best and most expressive piece in the show. Based on the theme of the artist-as-victim (recurrent in Kuter's writings, but not previously evident in her art), it centers on the suicide death of painter Mark Rothko, who lies in a pool of blood, his arms slashed.

Subliminally, the pose recalls Old Master paintings of the crucified Christ, and the implications are not lost on the viewer. Nor are the allusions to the young Gorky (also a suicide) and Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Children." The heroic figure of Jackson Pollock serves as the compositional pivot. Mme. Pompadour and Nelson Rockefeller no doubt symbolize the patron-exploiter for Kuter, the Courbet figure at right, the artist-as-worker. There are lapses in some of the other portraits (including Rothko's dealer), but overall, this is Kuter's most eloquent work of art to date.

The show continues through Nov. 13 at 9 Hillyer Court, in the alley between the Phillips Collection and the Cosmos Club. Hours are 11 to 5, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Noland's Paper Art

Washington color painter Ken Noland is back in town with his first Washington show since the double-header retrospective at the Hirshhorn and Corcoran museums in 1977. His recent handmade paperworks go on view today at Kornblatt Gallery, 406 Seventh St. NW.

If you're partial to big, splashy paintings, the show will disappoint: there's not a canvas in sight. But if it's the quintessential Noland you're after -- the creative experimenter and sublime colorist -- don't miss this chance to see what he's been up to for the past four years.

These are not works on paper, but works in paper -- built from layers of colored pulp, laid on by hand, and put into a press to squeeze out the water and bind the whole. Noland began his romance with papermaking in 1978, and was so enthralled with the medium that he set up a separate studio for the purpose. The Kornblatt show is small -- only 15 works -- but they represent five series he has since produced. The shapes are familiar: horizontal stripes, targets and chevrons. In this medium, however, they take on a delicate intimacy the paintings never had.

"Horizontal Strip II-2" is an especially delicious piece made of five layers of mauve, yellow and light blue pulp that virtually melt into a gray field. The work is silent and restrained, but exudes a noble presence. Most exquisite is the salmon-pink "Circle II-41," made of three layers of pulp, to which three monotype printings have been added in a target configuration.

Less interesting are some boxed, three-dimensional reliefs made from heavy rag paper. But the most recent series -- made of molded paper heavily embossed with concentric chevrons -- is intriguing for the new direction it implies. For here, the color is not only embedded in the paper, but also appears to have been painted on the surface. These works are still evolving. The show continues through Dec. 1, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 to 5:30. Anton Gallery's New Look

The Anton Gallery at 415 E. Capitol St. SE has taken on a spiffy new look under the directorship of Tom Nakashima, including uniformly better art than previously has been seen in this Capitol Hill gallery. The back room, hung with works by gallery artists, makes the point: a fine graphite drawing, part of a "broken stick" series, by Lowell Tolstedt, of Columbus, Ohio; a bold abstract painting titled "Diver" by Bill Roseberry of Washington; and a finely-tuned lithograph, based on a Chinese character, by Will Petersen of Chicago.

The featured artist, through Nov. 3, is Todd Slaughter, also of Columbus, who is showing wall-hung sculptural constructions. The newest and best look like three-dimensional action paintings made from gestural swirls of stainless steel, and intersected by nicely colored lightning-bolt forms made from cast resin. This is energetic art, far better than his earlier work, which is also on view. The gallery is open noon to 5, Tuesdays through Sundays.