Jack Reilly’s career began in Los Angeles in 1978, shortly after his paintings were discovered by prominent Los Angeles gallerist Molly Barns. Reilly had just received his MFA from Florida State University and promptly moved to Los Angeles. Following the critical success of his first solo Los Angeles exhibition, he was invited by Donald Brewer, curator of the Fisher Museum at the University of Southern California, to exhibit in The Reality of Illusion, a major exhibition which opened at the Denver Art Museum and subsequently traveled for two years to the Oakland Museum, USC Fisher Museum, Johnson Museum at Cornell, Honolulu Academy of Arts, among other prominent institutions nationwide. This series of museum exhibitions established Reilly as one of the original artists associated with the Abstract illusionism painting movement. In 1979 Reilly received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant.
By the early 1980s, Reilly's paintings were exhibited and represented by galleries in major American art centers including the Molly Barnes Gallery in Los Angeles, Aaron Berman Gallery in New York, Foster Goldstrom Fine Arts in San Francisco, Marilyn Butler gallery in Scottsdale and numerous others. Articles and reviews on Reilly's paintings were subsequently published in Arts Magazine, Art Week, the Los Angeles Times, New York Artworld, and in books including American Art Now by noted author and art critic Edward Lucie-Smith, and Inside the L.A. Artist by Marva Marrow.
Such notable collectors, including Fred and Marcia Weisman, Steve Martin, Daniel Melnick and numerous others, as well as public institutions, acquired Reilly’s paintings. The 1990s yielded major public art commissions including a forty-foot, site-specific, steel wall painting/sculpture for the County of San Diego Public Art Program, soon followed by an eighteen-foot, shaped-canvas painting commission for American Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport. In 2012 Reilly’s paintings were exhibited as part of the Getty Museum's Pacific Standard Time initiative: Art in L.A. 1945-1980. In 2016 his work was the subject of a solo retrospective exhibition at the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO). Continually active as a painter, widely collected and exhibited internationally, Reilly’s work can be found in numerous private, public and corporate collections including the Oakland Museum, Atlantic Richfield, American Airlines, and Verizon Communications, among others. In addition to Reilly's long-standing career as an exhibiting painter and university professor, he currently divides his time between Hawaii and California.