The new exhibit at The Rachofsky House begins speaking to visitors from the first step over the threshold.
The home completed in 1996 for Dallas art collector Howard Rachofsky usually features works from his extensive contemporary collection. But for this latest installation, Rachofsky let New York City artist Ricci Albenda take over the home, so to speak, placing his text-based art throughout for the exhibit that will be on display through July 31.
"Language is kind of having a field day in the house," said Charles Wylie, a curator of contemporary art at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Albenda, who has a system linking certain letters to certain colors, named the exhibition "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." As a pangram, a sentence using all the letters of the alphabet, the title plays on the text-based theme.
"Ricci is using language and challenging your notions of perception," said Rachofsky, who has been collecting art for about three decades.
Albenda created some pieces with the house in mind and also brought in older works that fit.
"The majority of the spaces, when I entered them I thought, 'This is the perfect place for this body of work or that body of work,"' he said.
The Rachofsky House, designed by architect Richard Meier, is a stark contrast to the more traditional homes along Dallas' busy Preston Road. Glimpsing it from the street, it's a giant white rectangle. The roughly 10,000 square-foot house is located on about three acres. The exterior is white aluminum tiles. Inside, black granite floors contrast with white walls.
"The house caught on very quickly as a place people wanted to see," Rachofsky said.
Rachofsky lived in the one-bedroom house for about five years before getting married and moving to more family-friendly home. A former hedge fund manager, he and his wife, Cindy, are one of three Dallas couples who have promised their private collections of modern and contemporary art to the Dallas Museum of Art. That bequeath will include The Rachofsky House.
Thomas Feulmer, director of educational programming at the house, said that the home has hosted tours, charity events and educational events for architects and other groups. School groups from middle school up to college are also frequent visitors. It's open for tours by appointment only.
"For the most part, I think there's a sense of wonder because the architecture and the setting are so different from any other place, especially in Dallas," Feulmer said.
He said visitors have been enjoying Albenda's exhibit, which unfolds over three floors. "It's almost like this kind of gradual build," he said.
In a downstairs bathroom, for example, scribbled words become recognizable when reflected in a mirror as lyrics: "It's so easy to fall in love ..." Walking into the second floor living area, several canvases stare back with sayings including "You're greedy, and you're selfish" and "No reason to say no."
Walking up a spiral staircase inspires song as small canvases show snippets from popular tunes: "Doctor, my eyes...," "I wanna be loved by you," and "...fill me up..."
"He thought through each room so beautifully," Rachofsky said.
Rachofsky said the installation in the library especially stands out. In the space, a white wall bookended with floor-to-ceiling windows draws the eye from a towering magnolia hedge outside, across the interior white wall to colorful canvases adorned with plant names like periwinkle.
The works in the bedroom feature canvases with the made-up words including "zwack" and "gnymp."
Peter Goldstein, an architecture teacher at a Dallas magnet school, said his students particularly responded to the whimsy of those words and the botanical names in the library.
"Lots of these kids, they're used to thinking of art as a painting of someone's face hanging on the wall. We always know when we go to The Rachofsky House we're going to see something different," Goldstein said.
"We try to understand architecture as a form of art and this is a great tie-in," he said. "To have an artist come and do an installation for that house, it makes it even more meaningful."
Rachofsky, who plans to acquire some of the exhibit's works for his collection, said they plan to have more one-artist exhibitions.
Albenda said he was pleased with the outcome. "I think it kind of went beyond my expectations, which were pretty high to begin with," Albenda said.