THE ART in "Artists, at Play?" -- an exhibition of works by 18 Washington area artists at the Arlington Arts Center--is mainly about memory, about the disjunction between the adult and the child in all of us. Using toys or children's games as a starting point, each artist in the show attempts in some way to put Humpty together again.

This tension can be an interesting point of departure. H. Terry Braunstein's satirical transformation of a cheap cardboard book of nursery rhymes is a spirited, funny re-use of trite images and emotions. Sidney Lawrence's house-of-horrors relief construction, "1906 Doll House," is a successful evocation of fears that sometimes accompany child's play. John Ryan's "Target Man," a stylized half-length figure literally punctured by sharp oriental throwing discs, is a chilling piece whose relevance to the stated theme is questionable.

The most ambitious works in the show are John Dickson's "The Procession of Princess Tourndot" and Janet David's "He's Not Dating You, Is He?" Dickson's piece is a parade of inventively altered toys and other happenstance artifacts--Big Wheels, toy trains, gold clubs, hair dryers, roller skates, horseshoe crab shells. David's work is a tableau-painting, seven inches thick, made up of hundreds of candy wrappers and other tiny bits and pieces, glued together and rather messily painted over with brilliant, tacky colors. I'm not at all sure either artist completely hits the mark, but I admire the complexity of their intentions to simultaneously encapsulate something of a child's intensity and an adult's anxiety.

Other reasonably satisfying works are more straightforward: Nade Haley's scary animal cut-outs, Raya Bodnarchuk's appealing bird-like figures cut from wood, Genna Watson's memorably lyrical "Dinosaur Diorama." Linda Swick's free-standing sculpture, "The Finale," a tapered cylindrical pole supporting a sphere in which two stylish motorcyclists race to no end, is absorbingly odd.

The mixed exhibition was selected by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, assistant curator of 20th century painting and sculpture at the National Museum of American Art. It continues through June 10 at 3550 Wilson Blvd. The center is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Jane Anthony-Buckman

Jane Anthony-Buckman is showing recent drawings and paintings in the Arlington Arts Center's upstairs gallery. The paintings, with their eerie light, simplified forms and de Chirico-like spaces, are far superior to the fussy drawings although the artist's grasp of her symbolic subjects--huge grapes, mostly, in strange settings--seems tentative. This show, too, runs through June 10. Frank Stella

An exhibition of 25 prints by Frank Stella at the Hom Gallery is not exhaustive but it includes a good assortment of the painter's prints from 1974 to 1982--enough to chew on for a while. Stella's prints, like his paintings, are at once daunting and tremendously appealing.

In prints, as in paintings, Stella's characteristic is the series--variations on formal themes that allow him to experiment and to change within controlled limits. Two series represented in this show--the "Sinjerli Variations" of 1977 and the "Polar Coordinates" of 1980--use the arcs of his earlier protractor and Saskatchewan paintings. Stella makes the arcs do tricks. They start, stop and speed this way and that; they break and regroup and break again, and they do this within a very tight system that yields, in his hands, constant surprise.

By contrast, the unpredictable, stylized, biormorphic forms in "Shards," the most recent series in the show, are placed almost randomly. Still, the forms are tied loosely together in a helter-skelter sequence of eye-popping spaces. If these images are not as pleasing as the earlier, more systematic arc prints, they project a jazzy vigor that is hard to forget.

The exhibition continues through May 21 at 2103 O St. NW. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Michael Platt

In his fourth solo exhibition at the Franz Bader Gallery, Michael Platt turns his vision and his battery of skills (as sculptor, draftsman and painter) upon a terrifying subject: the Atlanta murders.

Artistically the results are mixed. Snapshots of the children, displayed in a magazine that is part of Platt's mixed-media sculpture (a sort of altar to the dead) speak with a directness that is hard to top with artifice.

Still, it is a moving, mournful show. The strongest images in it are portraits--altered photographs of the victims (darkly scribbled and scratched upon) and straight drawings--in which Platt's vigorous attack as a draftsman conveys a plenitude of emotion. The paintings in which figures float in and out of indeterminate spaces are more ambitious, but they seem only vaguely related to the theme. Through May 28 at 2001 I St. NW, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.