Powerful emotions are the focus of Michael Platt's current show at the Franz Bader Gallery. This moving exhibition includes a half-dozen large paintings based on the Atlanta child murders, a theme which has concerned Platt for several years, and an impressive sampling of his other recent paintings and prints.

The strength of Platt's Atlanta pictures is that -- like Picasso's "Guernica" and Goya's "Third of May" -- they transcend the particular catastrophe that inspired them and make eloquent statements on the universal theme of human suffering. Platt paints not the murder victims, but the victims' mothers, their bodies literally torn apart by grief.

In "Passing By" and "Young Momas at the Grave," the stylized nudes are strong and solid, with dramatic blue and fuchsia slashes accenting their earth-colored torsos. Limbs are truncated or missing, heads hidden by splayed fingers or sunken into shoulders. These affecting figures recall the unsettling distortions of Francis Bacon and the metamorphosing bodies in Rico Lebrun's illustrations for Dante's "Inferno." But Platt infuses his figures with a particular kind of sad dignity.

The smaller paintings combine a sense of anxiety with paradoxically cheerful, hot tropical colors. Heavily impastoed figures painted in turquoise or vivid green stand alone in enormous spaces. Their arms are flung out in wild gestures, and bright purple marks -- like tribal scars -- cross their cheeks. Platt's etchings of misshapen, bust-length figures contain a remarkable variety of textural effects and the same masterful draftsmanship shown in his paintings. This exhibition continues through March 2, Franz Bader Gallery, 2001 Eye St. NW, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.