Former Bay Area painter Madden Harkness makes her L.A. solo debut with a group of monochromatic drawings that explore dark, introspective psychological states through the language and iconography of the classical nude.
Working on the matte side of large sheets of drafting film, Harkness transforms fairly academic renditions of allegorical symbols through a combination of turpentine washes, scribbled erasures and sepia-toned painterly gestures. Thus Adam and Eve-like figures and fleshy Renaissance nudes appear to be swept up in a maelstrom of murky chiaroscuro and kinetic cross-hatching, like barely discernible ghost images on a badly decayed photo plate.
Despite an obvious debt to the visceral outrage of Goya's graphic work, Harkness eschews social criticism in favor of a more Jungian inquiry into the transcendental properties of the painterly act itself. The work seems to suggest that the medium's didactic purpose, its ability to heal spiritual wounds, has been temporarily lost. Its recovery is dependent upon greater psychic self-knowledge. In Harkness' world, this clearly involves embracing and harnessing life's hidden demons as well as its more seductive, superficial charms. (Roy Boyd Gallery, 1547 10th St., to Jan. 2.)