Big Al Carter, whose vivid, topical murals have enlivened downtown Washington streets, will have his first show of works on paper at a new "gallery" created especially for the show in Herb's Restaurant. Curated by Herb White, the exhibition will open Nov. 8 in his restaurant's Gallery Room, which once housed the Jane Haslem Gallery.

White, whose generous support of the arts and artists has in turn given his restaurant its distinctive flavor, says he's not setting up a permanent gallery per se. "We'll leave the doors open for the public, when the room isn't in use for banquets or parties," he says.

Why Al Carter? "I'm just very fond of Al," White says. "He's just my artist-of-the-month. He's the most Picassoesque character in town -- he's got incredible energy -- he just lives and eats and breathes art. He can just produce right out of his head. I've seen him pick a piece of metal out of the street and take it home, etch it and make a piece out of it."

The show will include 40 pieces, and the opening will feature a reception and a panel discussion of Carter's work by art critics Paul Richard, Jane Addams Allen, Derek Guthrie and Michael Platt. White is also putting up the bucks for a small catalogue of the show. "If it works out all right and I can recoup some of the expenses, we might try it again next year for someone else," he says.

White's personal art collection (which includes five Carters) is a story in itself. He says he collects "a lot of Washington artists, some stuff I collected when I was in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, nothing major," but a friend in art circles says White's collection is "immense," noting that White's new apartment is crammed with work bought from just about every artist in town.

Another show of Carter's studio work is planned for February at Anton Gallery, which represents the artist, according to director Gail Enns.