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Emile Dillon

Emile Dillon's work transports viewers to a distinct and particular setting. His work varies from movie theater signs to restaurants or hotels, each defined by an exact moment, like a photograph. Dillon's 2016 acrylic painting Rae's depicts a specific yet accessible scene, Rae's Restaurant on Pico Boulevard and 29th Street in Santa Monica. The piece portrays a common Los Angeles image--a sunny day in fall, indicated by the brown leaves of the tree behind the sign, perhaps mid-afternoon. Dillon transforms an ordinary, possibly mundane moment into art. Recognizable signs and logos become revolutionized. Dillon's bright, eccentric and playful use of color is not only pleasing to the eye, but is also an identifiable trait for Dillon's body of work. Vibrant sky blues emphasize bright red or yellow signs across United States cities.

Dillon's work is capable of grounding viewers into a scene. Whether that scene portrays the Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia or a Duane Reade at the Snapple Theater Center on the corner of 50th Street and Broadway—Dillon's locations encourage viewers to relate their own experiences to his works. Viewers may find it easy to connect to his work because Dillon chooses clear subject matters—logos and signs—that are easily identifiable. For instance, California inhabitants may connect with Dillon's 2015 acrylic In-N-Out Burger, a chain of fast-food restaurants which directly correspond to a typical California experience. Dillon's 2006 acrylic Avalon distinctly nods to a Miami way of life with a photorealist portrayal of the Avalon Hotel.

Dillon is drawn to subjects that are strong in geometric, graphic shape. His 2014 acrylic The Three Cokes demonstrates Dillon's use of logos but also structure. Although Coke cans are by nature sharply defined, he does not shy away from cans' starkness. Placed upon a graphic and structured table, the Coke cans reflect each defined shape. Therefore, the logo is not only the main subject matter, but ultimately dominates the canvas.

It's easy to connect to Dillon's work because he presents subject matter with approachability and playfulness. Perhaps you have walked or driven past Rae's, The Avalon, or even recall going into the Duane Reade on 50th and Broadway. Dillon presents a snapshot of a particular moment in time, and transforms it into fine art for viewers not only to visually enjoy, but to connect with for themselves.

Mirabelle Alan
June 2017


Emile grew up in New Jersey in a family of artists. His grandfather was the painter Frank Joseph Dillon. His uncle Felix Vargas was a Latin American artist. Emile began painting at an early age after watching both his grandfather and uncle. In the mid 1970s, Emile started working for the Eastman Kodak Company. During the course of his career as a photojournalist and editorial photographer, Emile photographed many famous people and traveled extensively in the United States, Mexico, Europe, and the Caribbean. In 1998, Emile went back to his first love, painting. He studied at the School of Visual Arts and the Art Students League in New York.