This is The Virginia Fire and Police Museum, formally known as Steamer Company No. 5, the oldest standing firehouse in Virginia (built in 1849) and now the home of Gallery 5. The building was bought by Tom Robinson thirty years ago when he learned the city was going to tear down the firehouse his father and grandfather had served in; he turned it into the Fire and Police Museum and now daughter Amanda has given it new life as a gallery (the fire museum remains, that and the art gallery share the space). The opening was a lot of FUN, they sold beer all night and from 10:00pm or so had bands.
The art is all on the big second floor space, currently a big selection of art and artists. I'll list my five favorites -
Terry Wolfe - Terry is showing smallish steel and iron sculptures. They look like very old alien land mines, Starship Trooper weapons, that have been discovered and put on display. Very easy to imagine a "click" and a whiiirrr sound as they reactivate. Some of them could be alien idols. Very interesting and strange. Mr. Robinson said he thought that this is the first time Terry has ever shown, which would be surprising because these are the products of a very well-developed sensibility.
Oura Sananikone - Oura has two excellent exuberant paintings. Super busy and grafitti energetic but they don't feel too busy at all. One is a big yellow X on a black ground covered in an almost grid of silver ghosts, pac-man style. The other one features a central torpedo-shaped blue ghost/head on a red ground and exploding with white ghosts and robots from his eyes, nostrils and mouth. All around the whole thing are more black and silver cartoony robots radiating outwards - almost like one of those Indian or Japanese gods with lots of arms and hands holding lots of things. These two are both very good and look great together. Exciting! Oura also has some smaller paintings at Nonesuch he is selling for only $10.00.
Jonathan Lee - These paintings of stenciled female faces over speckled and paint spattered surfaces at first seem cheesy but they held my attention, there is something slightly disturbing about them - cosmic, eighties, and violent. I'm not sure how much I actually like them and why or why not.
Ella Watson - Ella has a bald androgynous empty-glass-eyed and slightly larger than life head in a case. It's red, not bright red but like old red lacquer red. It looks kind of sad or surprised to have it's head cut off and in a case.
Mike Taylor - He has four things in the cases, two scary and creepy masks in the middle with big homemade banjo-type instruments on either side. The masks are more full-on headgear than masks, kind of like African masks, but much darker and scarier. One is made of "dead inner-tubes and lost keys" - a black rubber fetish mask with a beard of keys, also including coat hooks and cowri shells. The other is "leather and found objects" - the whole top is little plastic fetus babies - and some dice. The instruments also have an African feel, like something made a hundred plus years ago, no idea how functional they might be.