SCULPTOR Ed Love's work, shown in Washington for 15 years, has been distinguished by moral passion and visionary fire grounded in his response to being black in America. His recent works, on view in a solo exhibition at Nyangoma's Gallery, continue his basic themes. The welded-steel sculptures are intensely felt and intensely thought out. At the same time they are his most abstract and lyrical works to date.

The new pieces are based upon the lives and music of five great black musicians--Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy and Max Roach--who were key figures in the evolution of modern jazz. A series of sculptures is devoted to each of them. Appropriately, each series takes its own particular color, rhythm and form. The "Trane's Dance" pieces are powerfully expansive, the "Eric's Walk" sequence somehow mournful, "Miles' Boogie" bursting with spiky energy.

Love's formal and metaphorical inventiveness is considerable. The "Eric's Walk" series, for instance, combines biomorphic forms that imply powerful lungs and angels' wings--perfect for a reed player of Dolphy's daunting, haunting skills--with elongated forms that are at once elephantine and masklike. The tubes that flow outward from a heartlike center in the "Trane's Dance" pieces suggest a musical staff, a human hand, Futurist "lines of force," rhythmic vibrations in the air and so on.

Two pieces deserve special mention. "Blues Suite for Max," with forms clearly related to the drummer's apparatus, is the only one in the show that involves more than a single supporting arm. Each of its three elements stands independently. This simple-seeming change produces a kind of balance that is entirely new in Love's work. "Chiwara for Thelonious Monk," a dynamic standing figure culminating in an abstracted version of the Bambara antelope headress, is a genuinely Afro-American tour de force. Through April 23 at 2335 18th St. NW from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Silkscreens by David Salle

The B.R. Kornblatt Gallery has put on view a new series of eight silkscreen prints by New York painter David Salle, coinciding with his appearance in the Hirshhorn's "Directions 1983" exhibition. Viewed in abstract terms the prints are airy, elegant and even pretty, in sharp contrast to the ominous chaos of their subjects. The apt title of the series is "The Drunken Chauffeur."

Each print is a horizontal rectangle divided into a grid of six equal parts. The images are figures or comic-book animals sketched with an easygoing hand, and they overlap each other and the grid in complicated ways. They change colors, for instance, when they cross the borders of the grid, and they are drawn in at least three different scales--what we might call supersize (way larger than the format and visible only in fragments such as shoulder or arm), regular size (just right for heads) and small size (good for full-length figures inserted like anecdotes into the melange).

All of this makes sequential reading of the images impossible, although one cannot help trying--the juxtapositions are bewildering but provocative, a manic mix of men and women going through bad, confusing times. Presumably not for nothing is a revolving door featured in each of two of the prints, because the stories they tell seem to have neither beginnings nor endings. Is the artist the drunken chauffeur of the title? His tour of contemporary life in the Western world certainly is dizzying and chilling. Through April 21 at 406 7th St. NW, Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Drawings by Lowell Tolstedt

Amazing is the word for the finesse of Lowell Tolstedt's draftsmanship, on view at the Anton Gallery on Capitol Hill. The artist rightfully takes pride in this skill: the subject of many of the drawings is the process itself, as in the simple rope knot drawn twice, one time incomplete (a beginning sketch on a tiny spiral notebook sheet) and one time finished (the "real" thing). He plays a similar game with scale: some of the objects he draws are actual size (such as coins or pebbles or razor blades), some are miniaturized (conventional still life objects such as bottles or cups) and some are indeterminate (photographs or reproductions whose original size is impossible to tell).

Tolstedt uses the fine grade of the paper to enhance the infinite subtlety of his graphite shadings, and the objects he draws so painstakingly are at once precise and soft, rather like objects in platinum print photographs. Pencil marks are almost invisible, but even so the feel is very much that of the hand-done thing. Tolstedt is a dean at the Columbus (Ohio) College of Art and Design. The show continues through April 14 at 415 E. Capitol St., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.