James Rizzi is an American Pop artist widely known for his unique art brand of a linear style, vibrantly colorful palette, and childlike imagery.
Today, he is renowned for his three-dimensional creations that combined characteristics of graphic art, painting, and sculpture. His works captured anthropomorphic cityscapes and urban life scenes using his trademark technique of hand-colored silkscreen prints with cutouts attached to them. This approach made his art burst with life and color. Furthermore, his use of fine and bold lines alluded to the fragility and strength of imagination.
A native New Yorker, Rizzi’s artworks captured the classic imagery of New York City. His illustrations often included depictions of cars, cabbies, hot dog booths, and views of the Hudson River, the Guggenheim Museum, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Broadway. Furthermore, his paintings showcased the illuminated advertisements, street signs, fire hydrants, streets full of buildings, and even the dustbins characteristic of the concrete jungle. However, the seminal characteristic of his work was the abundance of people representing New York’s multicultural society. Rizzi captured New York City in a positive light to showcase how a diverse society could get along despite the different cultures and languages spoken.
In 1975, at the beginning of his art career, Rizzi participated in outdoor art shows held in Washington Square and Brooklyn Heights. Additionally, he sold his art outside The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). A year later, in 1976, his small-scale graphic work had garnered the attention of the Brooklyn Museum.
By the early 1980s, he collaborated with the popular new wave band, Tom Tom Club, and designed album art and animated videos for them. One of his most notable achievements was his commission as the official artist for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. His paintings of the opening ceremony are now part of the collection of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Rizzi’s signature quirky and eye-catching design led to his collaboration with various Japanese corporations. Additionally, he received continuous employment from Germany for television films, puzzle designs, restaurant menus, and even vehicular art for Volkswagen. In 2008, he became the first living artist to design postage stamps for the German government. Rizzi experienced great success overseas and was even considered a superstar in Germany and Asia.
Today, Rizzi’s creations present an innocent outlook on life. They allude to the beautiful aspects of life and promote the idea of approaching everything with a smile. The soft yet vibrant scenes of everyday delights served as a reminder to love life and not take things for granted. He made sure that his art was void of any intellectual pretense and only conveyed the simple joys of life and happiness.
Throughout his life, Rizzi maintained his childlike spontaneity. He died of a heart condition in December 2011.
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