Jazz is usually the draw at Allentown’s Pausa Art House on Wadsworth Street. The small, renovated house has a lounge with a bar at the front, connected by a thin hallway to the performance space in the rear. Dark melon-colored walls usually hold artwork from regional artists, which adds to the aura of the performance and the vibe of the venue.
Marcus Wise’s “Synesthesia,” on exhibit at Pausa through Feb. 28, certainly benefits from this arrangement.
The dozen photographs that constitute this inviting and thoughtful show feel right at home with the live jazz performance. Wise mostly hits the right notes with his keen eye, capturing a certain tactile and emotional connection with the instruments usually only reserved for their owners.
Pausa Managing Director Lázara Nelson said this is the first time in the venue’s two-year history that one of her exhibits also involves musical instruments.
“It’s part of the instruments that you never get to see, the beauty of them from the eye of the artist,” she said.
An award-winning photographer, Wise is best known as the owner of 464 Gallery and Glow Gallery, as well as the publisher of the local arts magazine, Spark. He explains that in his photography, he likes to get up close to his subjects, to see the “chaos in order” that a closer look can uncover.
“Musical instruments are all made in a specific way to make a specific sound. I wanted to try and investigate that and imagine and vision what that would sound like,” he said.
The loving romanticism of “Scroll,” with a deep dark blue background against the rich soft reds of a viola’s red neck, from which emanates a warm sensual energy exposing the intimacy between the object and its unseen user. Wise lets the viewer approach the instrument with an intimacy and familiarity that is typically reserved for the artist playing them.
You can feel the texture of a grip of a trumpet in “Buckle,” slide your fingers along the valves of a saxophone in “Flight Keys,” experience lightness of a banjo gear in “Resonator” and the imposing vibrations of a piano and its strings in “Wired,” and hear each one of their sounds with your eyes.
When Wise focuses in on the simplicity and elegant details of musical instruments, the photographs can deliver the viewer into a different frame of mind, and he achieves the eponymous effect. However, the dual oboe reflections in “Reverb,” and abstraction of another viola in “CGDA,” are too cool and detached to drive that effect home.
What: “Synesthesia - A Photographic Exploration of Shape and Sound” by Marcus Wise
When: Through Feb. 28
Where: Pausa Art House, 19 Wadsworth St.