If David Hollowell's name is unfamiliar now, it won't be for long. His first big-city solo show, at Jane Haslem/Downtown, is a knockout.

Working on a scale between small and gigantic (one painting is 20 feet wide), Hollowell, 31, portrays himself and his friends in casual settings--lolling about the studio, sitting at a table drinking beer or sweating out the opening of his show at the Roswell Museum in New Mexico.

The results are anything but casual. Freezing his carefully posed figures into classic compositions, Hollowell gives them the monumentality of Greek columns--or objects in a still-life painting. A sense of timelessness is reinforced by the backgrounds, which have been simplified and distilled into thick, dappled overlays of beautiful--and beautifully painted--pointillist color.

"The Wall Painters," a 14-foot-wide canvas depicting the artist on a ladder painting a wall, takes fullest advantage of the fact that Hollowell's backgrounds often come alive as paintings in themselves. Here, the brush of the painted painter seems a magic wand, invoking a cloud of color that nearly floats off the canvas.

Though highly accomplished, these oils represent only the exploratory beginnings of a mature style--no surprise given the artist's relative youth. Inconsistency in the degree of realism used to depict different faces within the same canvas poses the most serious esthetic problem, though in the haunting "Interiors," it has been resolved.

Strong influences hang in the air, notably that of the French painter Balthus (guru to many young figurative artists) and still-life painter William Bailey, the artist's mentor at Yale. Hollowell, in fact, often presents his figures much as Bailey presents his homely crockery--as mere objects, observed in a warm, moody light.

But a deliberate and witty allusion to Josef Albers' famed "Homage to the Square"--in the middle of the panoramic painting titled "The Opening"--suggests that playing around with influences may be one more of Hollowell's many strategies for keeping viewers on their toes.

His extraordinary show will continue at 406 Seventh St. NW through May 2. Hours are 11 to 4, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Kehoe at Osuna

Patrice Kehoe has cut a considerable swath through the Washington art scene in recent years, winning prizes and curatorial accolades in several juried shows. Her show at Osuna affords the first long look at her latest work. It is strong, well-made and energetic, but not quite ready for prime time.

Working large in oil on canvas with bits of canvas collage attached, Kehoe has produced a series of paintings covered with vine-like forms that wind their way around and into the canvas, giving the whole show the look of a maelstrom in the underbrush.

On occasion--"Twisting the Witch" is one--the chaos is brought sufficiently into focus to allow the viewer a chance to explore linear gymnastics and color. "Taken By the Quick," however, is one of several works that seem to have gotten wholly out of control, like so much rampaging kudzu. For the record, the show is nearly sold out. It closes May 12 at 406 Seventh St. NW. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 to 4. Graves at Osuna

While at Osuna, don't miss the small, round tempera paintings on paper by Morris Graves, whose retrospective is on view at the Phillips Collection. Featuring a bird, a piece of fruit and an often passionate relationship between them, each work is set against a dappled, oriental-style background. "Blue Jay Wrecking an Apple" is an especially witty and spirited example. This show also continues through May 12. Printmakers at Bethesda

Modernism was still a joke for most Americans in 1910, when Alfred Stieglitz first exhibited the work of Americans such as Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Lionel Feininger and Max Weber, who had learned newfangled styles in Europe. Though their role in 20th-century American art history recently has come under scrutiny, their role as printmakers has not. After a two-year hunt, the Bethesda Art Gallery has assembled what may be the first commercial show devoted to those prints.

Spanning the years from 1915 to 1950 (with prices from $60 to $6,000) the show includes work that leans heavily on French art--such as Stuart Davis' whimsical "Hotel de France," which crosses Utrillo and Raoul Dufy. Two etchings by John Marin reveal that he, like so many others here, worked in many degrees of abstraction at once.

But artists of lesser renown provide the surprises: Louis Schanker's strong color woodcuts--from "Coney Island" to "Abstraction with Heart"--suggest an artist whose reputation has yet to catch up with his talent. Werner Drewes' and Edward Landon's color woodcuts remain astonishingly fresh a half-century after they were made.

The show will continue at 7950 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda, through April. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 to 5, Thursdays till 8 p.m.