James Rizzi

United States 1950 - 2011

Pop Art


James Rizzi
James Rizzi
United States
December 15, 2014

James Rizzi was an American pop artist, painter and sculptor, an idol to children worldwide, and a superstar in Germany and Asia. He rose to fame with his brightly colored and vivid images, 3D cityscapes, prints and illustrations. The theme he was working under was simply happiness, the joy of living, and he proudly portrayed the light images of everyday delight, reminding everyone that happiness mustn’t be taken for granted and that love for life is all around us. As a pop artist, he liked to use strong bold lines, bright and vivid colors, and to let his imagination loose, not thinking too much into the form and outlines, which made him stand out among the fabricated replicas that we mostly associate with pop art.

James Rizzi - Cat Some Love, 2010, james, rizzi, american, city, artwork, contact, rizzi, home, rizzi, edition, rizzi, years, prints
James Rizzi – Cat Some Love, 2010

Early Life and Education

Rizzi was born in 1950, in the middle of the 20th century, in the artistic and cultural epicenter of the world, New York. His family comes from European ancestry, Italian and Irish, which gave him a diverse cultural education when he was a boy. He grew up in Brooklyn and attended the Holy Innocents Grammar School, and later the Erasmus High School. Rizzi was often described as a man of sun full character, who knew how to cheer himself up and pick up the spirits among others. After high school, he took a leap year, which turned out to last more than just a year, but the break period turned out to be very beneficial for his art and creativity. When he enrolled the Miami-Dade College, and later the University of Florida at the beginning of the hippie 70’s decade, he knew that he wanted a formal education in art, he just couldn’t decide which one he wanted, only to end by taking all of them. For the course entry requirement, he made a silkscreen print, color it and combined with matching etching which he attached on the cutout print, added a sheet of foam and made his trademark artwork combo, the mix of painting, 3D sculpture and graphic art. After college, he moved back to New York, where he found Soho district in Manhattan the best place for an artist to be and made his home there. He started hanging out with other artists in the city and participating in outdoor shows. He sold his paintings outside of the major artistic hotspots, in front of MOMA, MET Museum, galleries in Washington Square. His first creations were done in small formats, and he mastered the small-scale drawings, which he started exhibiting in the city. The first exhibition happened in 1976 in Brooklyn Museum. Later came the commission design works, and vinyl case design which he did for many discos and new wave bands in the 80’s.

James Rizzi sold his pop artw outside of some major artistic hotspots

James Rizzi - A Bunch Of Birds, 2011, james, rizzi, edition, rizzi, years
James Rizzi – A Bunch Of Birds, 2011

New York and Germany

In New York, he was a breath of fresh air, a man who fought the darkness and melancholy with happy, eye-catching images. The first serious engagement was for a Japanese company where he worked as a designer for corporations. James Rizzi worked for television, collaborated with brands while working on the design packaging and made his own designs for puzzle games, flyers, restaurant menus. His most serious commission was the collaboration for the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. At the opening ceremony, he displayed series of paintings, which were capturing the Olympic spirit, and later continued to burst with life at the Olympic Museum in Switzerland. His favorite place in the world was his hometown New York, where the city itself inspired him to make art. The details in his cityscapes are directly inspired by architecture, dense buildings, skyscrapers, parks, and crowds. His work is a result of mixing various influences, techniques and above all love for painting and daydreaming. He proudly stated out that his favorite artists were Picasso, Paul Klee, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and painters from the cartoon producing studios, who knew how to lighten up someone’s day and make imaginary worlds closer to the audience. His elaborative style crossed borders and traveled worldwide, but made him a superstar in Germany. He was the first artist ever to design postage stamps in Germany. Rizzi designed toys, boxes, gift wrappings and office interiors. He designed an oval ceiling, nowadays called The Rizzi Dome for the large shopping mall, in Oberhausen, Germany. For the Volkswagen Beetle, he painted and decorated three cars, and for the Lufthansa Boeing 757, he designed the whole exterior. When we think about the uniqueness of James Rizzi art, we think about childhood, invitational aesthetics that do not follow the conventions. We think about urban-naive, about filling the gray cityscapes with colors and playful characters.

His favorite place in the world was New York

James Rizzi - A Couple Of Couples, 2010, james, rizzi, james, rizzi, american, rizzi, edition
James Rizzi – A Couple Of Couples, 2010

The Pop Art of James Rizzi

Children and adults can relate to his artworks, so can corporations, galleries, and designers. He rebelled against formal conventions and fought against elitism and pretentiousness in art circles. He painter couples in love, children playing, fragmented portraits made porcelain and glass sculptures, and advocated freedom and flexibility. Rizzi believed that anyone could make art as long he has an open mind and willingness to learn. What separated Rizzi art from the rest is his understanding that art has to be an integral part of everyday life, to be present in the practical form. He applied his signature style to many household objects and office supplies, giving the people a chance to discover hidden symbols and the magic of colors in everyday life. Urban art mixed with naive aesthetics showed the power of childlike imagination and how creativity can transform the simple objects into the inventive artifacts. A lot of his work was done for the love of the city life, but he always tried to fight the grayness with optimism and color. He wanted to make art speak out for the lightness of being, helping people to fight the daily grind. In 2001 he designed the famous Happy Rizzi House, The Happiest House in the World, located on the farm in Brunswick, Germany. The house facade is painted in graffiti style and the whole construction is a work of urban and pop art. The five-story building was used as the office space and has been fully restored in 2011. The house is a tourist hotspot and the favorite location of children excursions. It was an inspiration for several entrepreneurs who tried to make replicas in the center of Brunswick, giving that it stands out in the sea of aged faced and concrete. James Rizzi’s large elaborate paintings, 3D cityscapes with humanlike figurines, maximalized the delight and joy of pop art.

The artist rebelled against formal conventions and fought the pretentiousness in art circles

James Rizzi - A Family That Flys Together, 2007, james, rizzi, florida, james, rizzi, artwork, rizzi, james, james, rizzi
James Rizzi – A Family That Flys Together, 2007

Enjoy Your Life

When the artists pass away, it seems that we remember them through their art. It’s funny, but when it comes to James Rizzi, we are unable to visualize any of his artworks. Not because there are so many, but because when we try, we are overwhelmed with joy and happy memories. He had a gift of inviting people to step into his world, where they would just leave all the troubles and worries behind. As if the time had stopped, and we were somewhere else, somewhere fun and care-free, drinking coffee, watching the baseball game, walking the streets of New York. And every time people went there, every time we shared Rizzi’s vision of life with the others, he was there to greet us all. Maybe he’s gone now, but his magical world of happiness and joy certainly remains.

Featured image: James Rizzi – portrait, photo credits Bernd Eßling

All other images copyright of the artist

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015Pop Art genius James RizziBild & Rahmen Hofmann, OberurselSolo
2015James Rizzi ...ForeverArt Galerie Richter, BerlinSolo
2015James Rizzi meets KaiserslauternKaiserslauternSolo
2015James Rizzi - In His DreamsCastle Vischering in LudinghausenSolo
2015Summer Mix 2015Fabrik 45, BonnGroup
2015James RizziNottbohm, GottingenSolo
2015James RizziTimmedorfer StrandSolo
2015RizziAlter Bahnhof, Traben-TrarbachSolo
2015James Rizzi - Pop Art Meets BarockLudwigsburgSolo
2015James RizziChurch of the Dominican in Muenster, WestfaliaSolo
2014James RizziPop Art Galerie, HamburgSolo
2014In Memoriam of James RizziGalerie am Dom Gießen, GießenSolo
2014RecallArt box berlin GmbH, BerlinGroup
2013James Rizzi - Gedenkausstellung in DortmundGalerie Zimmermann & Heitmann, DortmundSolo
2013James Rizzi retrospektiveArt Gallery Wiesbaden, WiesbadenSolo
2012James RizziArt Gallery Wiesbaden, WiesbadenSolo
2012UnforgettableArt Galerie Richter, BerlinSolo
2012James Rizzi Art Gallery Wiesbaden, WiesbadenSolo
2012Lightning Strikes TwiceCircuit 12 Contemporary, Dallas, TXGroup
2011James Rizzi - Udo Lindenberg & moreWalentowski Galerie, HamburgSolo
2011James Rizzi - Solo ShowOstsee Galerie, Timmendorfer StrandSolo
2011TIMESQUARE - EVERYONE SHOULD GO THEREUdo Lindenberg and more, Walentowski Galerie, HamburgSolo
2011Line Up30works Gallery, CologneGroup
2010James Rizzi - American Cookies30works Gallery, CologneSolo
2010James Rizzi - Neue ArbeitenGalerie im Lenne Karree, Bad OeynhausenSolo
2010JAMES RIZZI – is BACK IN TOWNKunsthaus Schill, StuttgartSolo
2010James Rizzi - LiveGalerie Muschik, AschaffenburgSolo
2010James Rizzi in DusseldorfGalerie Zimmermann & Heitmann, DortmundSolo
2010Transformation - Bilder von Jo Goertz und 26 weiteren KünstlernKunsthaus Rhenania, CologneGroup
2009All Roads Lead To New York CityKunst und Verlagshaus A. De Bernardi, AachenSolo
2009James Rizzi - Unikate - Zeichnungen - 3D GrafikGalerie am Dom Wetzlar, WetzlarSolo
2009N.Y.C Taxi - Udo Lindenberg & moreWalentowski Galerie, HamburgSolo
2009All Roads Lead To New YorkAusstellungssaal im Stadthaus am Dom, WetzlarSolo
2009James Rizzi Kommt …Galerie Wutzke, KoblenzSolo
2009James Rizzi Back To The Wonderful Timmendorfer StrandOstsee Galerie, Timmendorfer StrandSolo
2009James RizziHof Galerie Sylt, Morsum, SyltSolo
2009By appointment onlyGalerie Z, StuttgartGroup
2009Sommer-AccrochageGalerie Wild, FrankfurtGroup
2008James Rizzi – Druckgrafik (1970-2008)Museum fur Druckkunst, LeipzigSolo
2008James Rizzi Zu Gast In Unserer GalerieOstsee Galerie, Timmendorfer StrandSolo
2008The return of RizziMIVAgallery, MalmoSolo
2008Die Bunte Welt des James RizziGalerie Vetter, DurenSolo
2008Botschaften von James RizziKunsthaus Schill, StuttgartSolo
2008James Rizzi - 3D-Konstruktionenund UnikateGalerie Kuhn - Berlin, BerlinSolo
2008James Rizzi - Single ExhibitGalerie Zimmermann & Heitmann, DortmundSolo
2008Amerikanische Kunst & Pop ArtGalerie Wild, FrankfurtGroup
2008ERRO, RIZZI, Goldammer, etc.....Galerie Tulbinger Kogel, MauerbachGroup
2007Don´1t worry be happyGalerie Wutzke, KoblenzSolo
200735 Jahre Galerie KuhnGalerie Kuhn - Lilienthal, BremenGroup
2006New York City - Highway to the skyGalerie Jaeschke, BraunschweigSolo
2006New York City Highway To The SkyKunst und Verlagshaus A. De Bernardi, AachenSolo
2006James Rizzi - All you need is LoveArt Galerie Elwert, KarlsruheSolo
2006All you need is LoveFoxx Galerie, ZurichSolo
2006James Rizzi - 3-D Grafik und UnikateGalerie am Dom Frankfurt, FrankfurtSolo
2006Weihnachts- und JahreswendeausstellungGalerie Kley, HammGroup
2006Stadtansichten – Malerei und DruckgrafikGalerie Kley, HammGroup
2005My kind of townGalerie Augustin, InnsbruckSolo
2005James Rizzi - My Kind of TownKunsthaus Schill, StuttgarSolo
2005Funny PopGalerie Augustin, InnsbruckGroup
2004James RizziMathematikum e.V., GießenSolo
2004POP ARTDavisKlemmGallery, Frankfurt, MainGroup
2003KUNST AN WUMME UND WESERGalerie Kuhn - Lilienthal, BremenGroup
2003Sommerausstellung 200320 zeitgenossische Künstler - white8 showrooms, VillachGroup
2002James Rizzi - 3-D-Konstruktionen und UnikateGalerie am Dom Wetzlar, WetzlarSolo
2002James Rizzi - 3-D-Konstruktionen und UnikateGalerie am Dom Frankfurt, FrankfurtSolo
2001James Rizzi - Unikate 3D-6rafik ObjekteArt Galerie Richter, BerlinSolo
2001James Rizzi Solo ShowGalerie am Dom Wetzlar, WetzlarSolo
2001James RizziGalerie am Dom Frankfurt, FrankfurtSolo
2001DIE VOGELGalerie Kuhn, BerlinGroup
20009 Jahre Galerie MainzGalerie Mainz, BerlinGroup
2000Künstler der Galerie Group ShowArt Galerie Richter, BerlinGroup
2000Künstler der Galerie Collective ShowArt Galerie Richter, BerlinGroup
1999James Rizzi - New York - BerlinArt Galerie Richter, BerlinSolo
1999James Rizzi - Neue und seltene 3-D-LithographienGalerie Peter Baumler, RegensburgSolo
1999Waydelich, de St. Phalle, Rizzi, Gerstein, KühnGalerie Kuhn - Berlin, BerlinGroup
19998 Jahre Galerie MainzGalerie Mainz, BerlinGroup