Urban Primitive Artist James Rizzi Dies

It’s been reported that the Brooklyn artist James Rizzi died on Monday, at his New York studio, age 61. He was well known for his Pop urban brand of painting . The genre is noted as an influence to much of the urban street art popular today. Rizzi studied art at the University of Florida, where his original and often naive approach to painting was developed. His technique evolved with three-dimensional constructions that gathered an international following. In 1976, he participated in the exhibition Thirty Years of American Printmarking at the Brooklyn Museum. A few years later, he designed the cover for the first album of a new wave band called the Tom Tom Club. The Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth was enthralled by Rizzis work on the walls of a friends loft. She coined the phrase, “urban primitive,” Weymouth and drummer Frantz commissioned Rizzi to do the cover art for a new musical project, The Tom Tom Club in the early 1980s, and the animation for two videos.

Rizzi ventured into surprising aesthetic areas. In New York, he created a limited-edition of the MetroCard subway fare-paying system for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. His designs also appeared in CowParade, an exhibit of fiberglass sculptures displayed in New York public spaces. Rizzi enjoyed some of his biggest successes in Germany and Asia. There, he designed the ring coat for boxer Henry Maske, china for the Rosenthal company and three painted versions of the 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle.

A statement posted on his website reads, “It’s with great distress and sorrow that we have to announce the death of James Rizzi. The world famous pop artist died peacefully in his sleep in his studio in SoHo, New York, the night after Christmas. His sudden and unexpected death comes as a shock to family, friends, and collectors alike… He was in the middle of preparing for new projects when death struck him. “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.” He is survived by his mother, a brother and a sister.

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