A Chronological History of Jack Reilly's Painting
Reilly's early work reflected various influences of prominent artists of the time including Frank Stella, Elsworth Kelly, Ron Davis, Jules Olitsky, and Trevor Bell. Each of these painters dealt with aspects of structure, color and ambiguous space; elements that would converge in Reilly's early abstract paintings. Shortly afterreceiving his MFA degree from Florida State University, in 1978 Reilly moved to Los Angeles and his paintings quickly emerged on the L. A. art scene. By extracting and redefining certain elements prevalent in contemporary abstract art, Reilly's paintings commented on numerous formal and pictorial issues of the era. The combination of linear structure and color field painting with illusionary space resulted in a unique synthesis of abstraction and pictorial depth, which was sometimes refered to as "Abstract Illusionism." In April 1979 Reilly's work was exhibited in his first solo show at the Molly Barnes Gallery in Los Angeles. Simultaneously, Donald Brewer, curator of USC Fisher Gallery, included Reilly's painting in a major museum exhibition entitled "The Reality of Illusion" an international survey of "Trompe l' oeil" in both abstract and representational art. The exhibition debuted at the Denver Art Museum and traveled for two years thereafter, often breaking attendance records at museums throughout the United States. (left) Installation view at the Denver Art Museum- Jack Reilly (L), Vasa (C), and Ron Davis (R).

By 1980 Reilly's new shaped-canvas paintings were represented in major American Cities including the molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles, Aaron Berman Gallery, New York, Foster Goldstrom Fine Arts in San Francisco, Marilyn Butler Gallery, Scottsdale among others nationwide. Articles and reviews on Reilly's paintings were subsequently published in Arts Magazine, Artweek, the Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications. In 1981 Reilly mounted a total of five separate solo exhibitions, one of which traveled to museums and galleries throughout the United States. Important Art Collectors such as the late Fredrick Weisman and actor Steve Martin were among the first to acquire Reilly's artwork. It was the shaped-canvas paintings that launched Reilly into a new realm of artistic development as he prolifically produced a variety of compositions based around (what he referred to as) "a series of pictorial events." These illusionistic paintings seemed to jump from the wall towards the viewer while ironically maintaining a sense of static balance. As time progressed, the new paintings showed increasing deviations away from rigid formal compositions and theoretical color, towards more expressionistic tendencies. It was during this extremely prolific period that Reilly would develop his unique "signature style," consisting of richly colored line work, that appeared to hover over complex geometric shapes. For the next few years, Reilly would produce hundreds of paintings to meet the increasing demand for gallery and museum exhibitions. Virtually every gallery exhibition was "sold out" to what appeared to be a seemingly endless number of art collectors in pursuit of Reilly's paintings. (left) Exhibition at Aaron Berman Gallery, New York.

In Fall 1983 the S
tella Polaris Gallery in downtown Los Angeles presented a solo show of Reilly's new "Dimensional Paintings." Although many collectors seemed weary of the changes in Reilly's new work, when the reviews came in, the new large-scale abstractions were met with critical enthusiasm. A single painting consists of numerous shaped canvases, layered on top of each other up to five canvases deep. The polyester resin-based colored sections were created independent from the canvas structures and later attached with Plexiglas rods that physically suspended the color an few inches in front of the canvases. There were still shadows and space, but this time they were real. In 1985 art historian Edward Lucie-Smith included Reilly's new paintings in his book "American Art Now." Comments by Lucie-Smith addressed Reilly's approach to the innovative use of mixed-media materials, combined with a "Baroque restlessness." Subsequently, the Stella Polaris exhibition and Lucie-Smith's new book sparked serious interest in Reilly's new dimensional paintings as collectors soon purchased the entire body of work and numerous exhibitions followed. (left) Exhibition view, Los Angeles.

There have always been elements of classical art in Jack Reilly's earlier abstract paintings. His work continuously reflected an affinity for structure, balance, and visual order. In October 1989, the Boritzer-Gray Gallery in Los Angeles presented Reilly's "Classic Series" in a solo exhibition. As the art world was entering a new period of pluralism, these eclectic paintings, which combined highly-rendered classical subject matter with geometric abstraction on layered shaped-canvas structures, were dubbed by one critic as "Quintessentially Post Modern." This description also seemed to summarize the plight of many contemporary artists in search for something new and interesting during a sustained period of eclectic experimentation in painting. Reilly's painting sales remained very active during this period, as many new collectors entered the market looking for unique and challenging imagery. For a number of years, Reilly exhibited work that combined geometric abstraction and material-based, mixed-media painting with classical painting and subject matter as can be seen continuing through his "Endangered Landscape" and later "Convergence Series." (left) "Viewers at Jack Reilly's exhibition: "Convergence Series."

For Reilly, the 1990s also yielded numerous large-scale public art and corporate commissions with major pieces created for the County of San Diego Public Arts Program and American Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport. Shortly after completing three large public commissions, there was a renewed interest in Reilly's abstract paintings based upon the content of his earlier work. In 1993, Mumsey Nemiroff exhibited Reilly's newest group of abstract shaped-canvas paintings in her Los Angeles Gallery. During this prolific period, Reilly's interests and artwork continued to evolve in scope with the inclusion of a wider range of artistic media. In addition to his ongoing work in painting, Reilly expanded his art and experimented in the realms of film, video and digital imagery. The work was exhibited internationally and subsequently led to numerous awards for his work in experimental media. (left) Public Art Commission for San Diego County, 10x40 ft., 4000 lbs. Enamel on 4 steel panels.

Reilly's paintings of the early 2000s are quintessential examples of his attention to structure and detail in abstraction, yet combined with elements of randomness and serendipity. Each painting consists of thousands of brushstrokes, painted in acrylic polymers and metallic pigments on a shaped-canvas structure. Compositions are based on a combination of mathematical and random geometric designs that often result in a visual three-dimensional quality. Intuitive and theoretical color systems merge in linear formats that respond to the shape of the canvas. Reilly's signature brushwork has been compared to the complexity of Byzantine mosaics and the luminosity of Gothic stained glass. The rich viscosity of Reilly's paint mixture/concoction results in fluid, wet-looking and reflective surfaces. These densely-polychromed structures incorporate a cross-pollination of painting and sculpture, while reappraising and commenting on evolving issues that originated in twentieth-century painting and continue into today's contemporary genres. Today, Jack Reilly remains an extremely prolific painter and continues to explore innovative ideas in 21st century contemporary art. "Challenging traditional boundaries and breaking with convention is the real business of today's artist." Jack Reilly. (left) Viewers at Jack Reilly exhibition, California Museum of Art, Thousand Oaks, 2016.
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