People--even critics--are occasionally so inspired by what they see that they are propelled to try their own hand. James Crable's new color Xerox prints at Gallery K had precisely such an effect upon at least one viewer this week.

Using a color Xerox machine as his canvas, Crable arranges sundry items--a pound of M&Ms, a bag of candy corn, a tangle of rickrack, rubber bands or balloons--onto the glass plate and zaps them forever into place with the push of a button. Following some twiddling with knobs to adjust for magenta, cyan and yellow, he adds complexity--and size--by spinning another dial to "8," and then seamlessly mounting the eight copies together in one frame, producing mural-size montages. His works are selling fast for $400 to $650.

The challenge was irresistible. Armed with $6 worth of materials purchased at a downtown Drug Fair candy counter--including some seasonal jellybeans--we enlisted the aid of Rick Grinberg of Columbia Photo and his for-hire Xerox 6500 color copier. Starting with the jellybeans, we scattered them over the glass, ran a color test or two, and pushed the button. A few wheezing seconds later, there it was: an original Xerox print! The random composition was most satisfying, the sense of levitating forms wholly captivating, the shimmering translucence of the gelatinous globules vibrant. Downing the jellybeans, we broke into the M&Ms, which turned out to be much harder to deal with.

To start with, the chromatic span--except in the peanut variety--proved disappointing indeed. There was not a red M&M in sight, and the brown ones printed a dreary black. In pursuit of a broader color range--and greater contrast in form--we broke into a fun-pack of Good & Plenty. The white capsules produced intriguing ghostlike images, while the stubby daubs of shocking pink opened a new realm of possibilities. We decided it was art, and spelled it out.

But is it? In attempting to reproduce Crable's technique, we realized two things: Crable knows his way around a Xerox machine and his compositions are not as random as they seem. But is his instinct for pattern-building enough? On the basis of a one-hour experiment--total cost, $11--"fun" might be a better word. Viewers can see for themselves--and perhaps inspire themselves--through April 2 at 2032 P St. NW. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 6. Mannequins by Alice Lees

Alice Lees' impressive debut at Studio Gallery represents a cycle of work that began six years ago. Titled "The Everyman Series," it began with small soft sculpture--floppy white kid dolls shaped like artists' studio mannequins, but strung like marionettes. Stuffed into boxes and cages, they made gloomy--if rather obvious--statements about the state of man.

But two years ago, those figures came to life in the artist's imagination, and she began to think of them as giant inflatable mannequins that could be set afloat in the public spaces of this city--flying high in the National Gallery East Building atrium, or over the courtyard of the Pension Building--all buoyant affirmations of life. The results are the main events in this show: small studies and giant charcoal and pastel drawings on paper depicting mannequins afloat in the Botanic Gardens and elsewhere. These proposed "performances" have never actually taken place, but the sense of sheer energy and exuberance conveyed in the drawings precludes the need.

Several works featuring mannequins in harlequin suits are best overlooked. The show continues through April 2 in the Lansburgh Building, 420 Seventh St. NW. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturday, 11 to 5.