In 1975 Rizzi settled in Sullivan Street in Soho, the district of Manhattan where he was to spend the rest of his life. In the same period he created a 45m mural at Eric's Bar and Grill in New York, although it was demolished along with the building in 1985. Rizzi's reputation was established by his small-scale graphic work. This appeared almost simultaneously in the bosoms of both the art establishment and the counterculture, as he exhibited work at the Brooklyn Museum in 1976 and designed an album sleeve and animated videos for the new wave band Tom Tom Club in the early 80s.He developed his talent for the eye-catching, the quirky and sometimes the downright facile, notably for corporations in Japan. There, Rizzi worked with considerable success on television films, puzzle designs, restaurant menus, a whisky company calendar and the cover of a dictionary. In 1996 he achieved his most high-profile job, as official artist for the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. He created a series of paintings of the opening ceremony that are now in the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. The "Olympic spirit" and Rizzi's art were a perfect match. (1996), revealed Rizzi's passion for his native city. The lurid, anthropomorphic buildings that populate such works as Living Near the Water may not look much like Manhattan skyscrapers, but the UFOs and outlandish sea creatures give the picture a powerful mythical dimension. The frenetic crowds exemplify Rizzi's love of dense, teeming detail, while Crazy New York People and Cupid Does NYC make Sex and the City seem positively suburban. New York may have been Rizzi's principal inspiration but it was. That provided his most continuous employment, ranging from the making of teddy bears and a boxer's robe to the dome of a shopping mall in Oberhausen in the Ruhr and the Happy Rizzi House, a psychedelic office block, in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony. He also adorned the bodywork of three cars in order to promote the Volkswagen Beetle in 1999, having designed three years earlier the exterior livery of a Boeing 757. Rizzi's spirited departure from the conventions of airline logos anticipated British Airways' rebranding a little later, and was rather more successful. He was also honoured by having a school named after him in the Ruhr city of Duisburg.
Rizzi was an ebullient figure, highly sociable and a lover of basketball and golf, who frequently worked for children's and Aids charities. He was divorced from the fashion designer Gaby Hamill and is survived by his mother, a sister and a brother. James Rizzi, artist, born 5 October 1950; died 26 December 2011.