In 2016, Bill Thelen headed to the Obracodobra artist residency in Oaxaca, Mexico. The residency is housed within Casa Colonial, which also functions as a hotel. Thelen brought two seminal texts with him: the 19th-century French Symbolist novel A Rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain), by Joris-Karl Huysmans, and contemporary critic Wayne Koestenbaum’s Hotel Theory, a philosophical meditation on hotel living.
These books became launching points for works in which Thelen investigates identity and influence, history and the environment. Immersed in the colors and textures of the Oaxacan landscape, and facing middle age, Thelen was inspired to create a new body of work dominated by two prominent colors (el naranja and el turquesa), which, he says, “conceptualizes and cross-pollinates ideas about the interconnectivity of states of being with the environments that influence them.”
Set within what Thelen describes as “the unrestrained environment” of 21c’s vault gallery, Hotel Theory includes individual drawings, collaged works on paper using watercolors, ink and graphite drawings, and wall painting, along with a new wall drawing and a fiber piece that utilizes fabrics sourced from Raleigh Denim.