Pop artist and Brooklyn native James Rizzi died Monday in his SoHo, New York art studio from a heart condition at the age of 61, according to a statement written by manager Alexander Lieventhal, an executive at Art 28 GmbH & Co. in Stuttgart, Germany, which manages and sells Rizzi's work.
The statement also says:
James Rizzi became famous for the 3D paper sculptures he invented, the playful and childlike forms and bright colors of which were to become his artistic trademark. Thus he acquired a large international following across all age groups and classes. Another claim to fame came through the application of his distinctive style to a large variety of everyday objects - from Rizzi stamps to the Rizzi house, from Rizzi puzzles to the Rizzi jet plane, from Rizzi chinaware to Rizzi cars and trains. Throughout his life, Rizzi contributed to a number of charities, the wellbeing of children being particularly close to his heart. This is one of the reasons why a public school in Duisburg, Germany, bears his name since this year.
According to The Associated Press, Rizzi studied art at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he developed three-dimensional construction techniques. When Rizzi returned to New York, he nurtured his 3D techniques and made a name as a street artist with a mural.
In 1976, Rizzi participated in the exhibition Thirty Years of American Printmarking at the Brooklyn Museum. Four years later, he designed the cover for the first album of a new wave band called the Tom Tom Club.
Rizzi appealed to an international audience. In New York, he created a limited-edition MetroCard for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. His work also appeared in CowParade, an exhibit of fiberglass sculptures displayed in New York public spaces.
His work outside of the U.S. included designing: a ring coat for German boxer Henry Maske, china for the Rosenthal Porcelain Manufacturer in Germany, the front page of a newspaper in Hamburg, Germany, a jet with stars, birds and travelers for Lufthansa airlines in Germany, three versions of the 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle and ads for the Japanese Railway.
Reports say that Rizzi was also the official artist for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the World Cup games in France and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Last year, a school in Duisburg, Germany was named after Rizzi. In 2001, his office building in Braunschweig, Germany, the Happy Rizzi House, opened, too. Most recently, in 2008, Rizzi became the first living artist ever to be commissioned by the German government to create official postage stamps for Germany.
According to Lieventhal's statement, Rizzi was in the middle of preparing for new projects when death struck him.
With his art, what you see is what you get, said Lieventhal. Any child can look at it and understand what he's trying to convey: a celebration of life.
Rizzi, who is survived by his mother, a sister and a brother, was divorced and had no children.
In James Rizzi, the art world loses one of the last great pop artists, and we lose a good friend and a wonderful human being, Lieventhal said in his statement.