James Rizzi, American (1950 - 2011)

James Rizzi

  At First Glance, James Rizzi's art may easily be mistaken for the early artistic efforts of o young child, this is not an entirely erroneous judgment, for it is certain that Rizzi wants to incorporate the freshness and vitality of children's art in his work. In this regard he is not alone. Some of the great artists of the twentieth century, including Klee, Dubuffet and Miro, deliberately used a primitive, childlike style in their mature work.

Rizzi, born and raised in New York, has turned his childlike imagination into artistic powers to transforming the city itself into something wonderfully original. His large panorama of Urban life are teeming with energy and life, reflecting all the diversity and human variety that is at the core on New York. There is not "mean" streets but uproariously happy ones, where children jump rope, shoot baskets and walk their dogs. If the sidewalks belong to the young people, grown ups, especially men, are imprisoned inside an army of automobiles. The vehicles are as diverse as and crazily idiosyncratic as the people who drive them.

Mr. Rizzi’s creations included images for German postage stamps and a tourist guide to New York published this year. He was the official artist for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and soccer’s World Cup in France.

Lieventhal described Mr. Rizzi’s art as a “combination of print and sculpture that produces the 3D effect.”

After studying art at the University of Florida, Mr. Rizzi made his early name as a street artist in New York.

In 1976, he participated in the exhibition “Thirty Years of American Printmaking” at the Brooklyn Museum. Four years later, he designed the cover for the first album of the new wave rock band the Tom Tom Club.

In New York, he created a limited-edition of the MetroCard subway fare-paying system, and his designs appeared in “CowParade,” an exhibit of fiberglass sculptures shown in New York public spaces.

He enjoyed some of his biggest successes in Germany and Asia, designing china, the front page of a newspaper in Hamburg and some vehicular art — a toy-size fire engine and three versions of the 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle.

In 1996, Lufthansa airlines commissioned him to decorate a jet with stars, birds and travelers.

Last year, an oval stained-glass ceiling called the “Rizzi Dome” was unveiled at one of Europe’s biggest shopping malls, in Oberhausen, Germany.

Rizzi was most famous for his 3D artwork, "especially the large, elaborate prints and teeming anthropomorphic cityscapes. His merry maximalism and delight in delirious detail and elaborate minutiae created a true art brand, a trademark style as recognizable as any in the world". Recently, he has also returned to painting. His "latest paintings combine his Picasso meets Hanna-Barbera drawing style with an increasingly chromatic palette and a complex graphic structure that simultaneously evokes cubism and the most sophisticated Amerindian friezes." (Quotes from Glenn O'Brien, Foreword to "James Rizzi", 2006, with kind permission of the publisher).

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