Is Graffiti Art Pop Art? Pop Art Influence & Differences | By Kerwin Blog

Is Graffiti Art Pop Art? Pop Art Influence & Differences

Exploring the Relationship Between Graffiti Art and Pop Art: Key Similarities and Differences

In the colourful tapestry of the art world, several captivating strands have woven their way into the cultural fabric of our city environments, collectively forming ‘Urban’, or ‘Street’, Art. Graffiti Art and Pop Art are two key components that have combined to catalyse this movement.

Graffiti Art and Pop Art both possess a unique appeal, and yet, they share a common lineage that reflects the evolving nature of artistic expression over time. As a British artist whose unique portrait style contains many key pop art influences, in this article I explore some key similarities and differences between pop art and graffiti art.

Graffiti Art and Pop Art both use bold colours, incorporate symbols, and challenge artistic norms. However, graffiti’s raw rebellion contrasts with Pop Art’s intellectual cultural commentary, resulting in two distinct styles with unique socio-cultural origins.

Join me as I explore the dynamic relationship between graffiti art and pop art; considering key similarities and differences between these styles. You’ll also discover how they’ve left a lasting mark on both the art world and the urban environment that artists creatively use as their canvas.

Explore my own range of Pop Art–inspired paintings and prints at

Understanding Pop Art

At the crossroads of artistic innovation and societal commentary lies pop art, a revolutionary movement that reshaped the canvas of creativity.

Pop Art originated in the 1950s and 1960s. Characterised by its audacious utilisation of everyday objects, vivid colour palettes, and a sharp critique of consumer culture, pop art emerged as a vibrant response to the monotony of post-war artistry. Read more about pop art’s unique characteristics in my blog post.

Icons such as Andy Warhol, who immortalised soup cans and celebrities with equal flair, Roy Lichtenstein, renowned for his comic-inspired masterpieces, and Claes Oldenburg, who reimagined banal objects on a monumental scale, propelled this movement into the public consciousness.

Challenging Convention with Pop Art

More than mere brushstrokes on canvas, pop art embodied a daring departure from convention, challenging the sanctity of high art by embracing the imagery of mass media and consumerism.

Through their work, pop artists rendered the ordinary extraordinary, beckoning audiences to reconsider the objects that saturated their everyday lives. In doing so, they shattered the ivory tower of traditional artistry and paved the way for a cultural shift where popular culture took centre stage.

Andy Warhol Pop Art
Andy Warhols’ iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans Pop Art

The seismic impact of pop art continues to reverberate, as it not only challenged the artistic status quo but also bestowed upon the masses the power to appreciate the artistry of the everyday.

Learn more about Pop Art’s unique style and history in my dedicated blog section here. Explore my own range of Pop Art-style music icon paintings and prints in my online shop.

Origins of Graffiti Art

Nestled within the bustling concrete jungles of urban environments, graffiti art emerged as a potent medium of rebellion and self-expression.

Rooted in the need to voice dissent and claim a piece of the city’s visual landscape, graffiti’s genesis can be traced back to the pulse of underground subcultures. Early graffiti artists seized public spaces as their unyielding canvases, etching their thoughts and dreams onto the very fabric of their surroundings.

In the vibrant tapestry of the 1960s and 1970s, figures like Cornbread and Taki 183 etched their names into history, quite literally. Cornbread, heralded as one of the pioneers, dared to inscribe his moniker on Philadelphia’s walls, a precursor to the artistic insurgency that would follow.

Meanwhile, Taki 183, a messenger by profession, left his mark on New York City’s subway system, unwittingly laying the foundation for a global movement.

These early urban scribes wove their narratives amidst the concrete expanse, their tags evolving into a form of communication that transcended barriers. Graffiti’s ascendancy was a testament to the primal human urge to imprint and assert identity on the world, birthing an art form that spoke volumes without uttering a word.

The popularity of street and urban art has been on the rise in recent years – read my related blog post on ‘The Rise of Street Art: Graffiti and Pop Art’s Influence’ here.

Origins of Graffiti Art (Continued)

In the midst of the bustling urban landscapes, graffiti art arose not only as a voice of rebellion but also as a testament to human creativity’s boundless nature. As this movement gained momentum, graffiti artists began to employ a diverse array of tools, mediums, and techniques that turned cityscapes into their personal canvases.

From the simple elegance of spray paint to the intricate dance of stencils, these artists utilised a myriad of instruments to convey their thoughts visually. (Discover more about graffiti art and stencil techniques – and how they influenced the Pop Art movement – in my dedicated blog post.)

Urban Environments as the Canvas

Subway cars, abandoned buildings, and alleyways became the playgrounds of graffiti artists, where they harnessed the raw energy of the city to infuse their work with life. Tags, throw-ups, and murals took shape, each an evolution of the artist’s identity and style.

The origins of graffiti art are rooted in the audacity to reclaim public spaces, but they’re equally rooted in the mastery of techniques that transform rebellion into a symphony of colour and form.

As these artists navigated the intricate balance between defacement and artistic expression, they inadvertently paved the way for a fusion of creativity that would eventually intersect with the world of pop art.

Where Did Graffiti Art Originate? New York State of Mind…

Graffiti art has a multifaceted origin, with roots that can be traced back to various cultures and historical contexts. While it’s challenging to pinpoint a single birthplace for graffiti art, it’s widely recognised that the modern form of graffiti as an artistic movement emerged in urban centres in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

One of the earliest and most influential origins of graffiti art can be found in the boroughs of New York City, particularly in the Bronx. During this time, young people, often from marginalised communities, began to use public spaces like subway cars, walls, and buildings as their canvas for self-expression.

This form of expression was initially manifested through simple tags, which were essentially stylised signatures or names.

The socio-political environment of the era, coupled with the rise of hip-hop culture and the prevalence of street gangs, played a role in the development of graffiti art. It was used not only as a way to mark territory but also as a means of artistic communication and self-identity.

Key Features of Graffiti Art

As the movement evolved, graffiti artists expanded their techniques and styles, incorporating vibrant colours, intricate designs, and even elements of social commentary. This expansion eventually led to the differentiation of graffiti into distinct forms such as “wildstyle” (elaborate and interconnected lettering) and “pieces” (more intricate and colourful works).

It’s important to note that while modern graffiti art found its footing in the United States, similar forms of public mark-making and artistic expression can be traced back to ancient civilisations like the Romans, Egyptians, and ancient Greeks. These historical examples often served as predecessors to the contemporary graffiti art movement we recognise today.

My own ‘By Kerwin’ Pop Art has special connections to New York: this was the city in which I exhibited my artwork internationally for the first time. Read about my New York City art show here.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibiting his pop art paintings at The Other Art Fair, New York City in Brooklyn, June 2022 | Jackson Pollock-inspired music art prints
Me exhibiting my artwork in New York, 2022

The Intersection of Graffiti and Pop Art

Graffiti Art and Pop Art both use bold colours, incorporate symbols into their work, and challenge artistic norms. However, graffiti’s raw rebellion contrasts with Pop Art’s intellectual cultural commentary, resulting in distinct styles with unique socio-cultural origins. Graffiti also thrives in urban settings, whereas Pop Art uses traditional mediums for gallery display.

In the dynamic interplay of art movements, the collision of graffiti art and pop art was a revelation that redefined artistic paradigms. Both movements emerged as daring responses to established norms, casting aside traditional boundaries to craft a new language of expression.

From the raw, unfiltered self-expression of graffiti art to the vibrant, consumer-driven palette of pop art, these forms have merged and evolved, giving birth to a remarkable offshoot known as street art.

Street art often combines the graffiti technique with the humorous narratives of Pop Art

Challenging the Establishment

The connection between graffiti art and pop art lies in their shared audacity to challenge the artistic establishment. Just as pop artists defied conventions by elevating everyday objects to high art, graffiti artists rebelled by transforming urban landscapes into vibrant galleries.

I’ve written in-depth blog posts about what exactly inspired pop art (and how it rebelled against convention) here, and also on its distinctive characteristics here.

Common Characteristics Between Graffiti and Pop Art

This defiance paved the way for an intriguing crossover, as both movements unapologetically democratised art, rendering it accessible to diverse audiences.

Bold colours, an unmistakable hallmark of both graffiti and pop art, unite the two in an explosion of visual vibrancy.

Their shared penchant for bold palettes beckons viewers to engage, sparking emotional connections that transcend traditional artistic aloofness. Additionally, the use of symbols, be it pop culture icons or personalised tags, creates a shared lexicon that beckons curiosity and contemplation.

New York street art

Keith Haring’s Influence

In this artistic dialogue, Keith Haring assumed a pivotal role. Through his public murals, Haring breathed life into the streets with a fusion of graffiti’s immediacy and pop art’s iconic exuberance.

His fluid figures and infectious energy not only decorated walls but dissolved the boundaries between art and urban life, making creativity an integral part of the city’s heartbeat. Haring’s work (below) stood as a testament to the inseparability of graffiti, pop art, and the ever-evolving tapestry of contemporary expression.

Keith Haring Pop Art
Keith Haring’s Pop Art combined simplified graffiti-style elements

Banksy’s Influence Across Both Pop and Graffiti Art

Banksy, an enigmatic figure in the realm of contemporary art, has played a pivotal role in seamlessly fusing the worlds of graffiti art and pop art through his captivating creations.

With a mastery of both mediums, Banksy blurs the lines between rebellion and homage, provocation and contemplation. His stencilled artworks often feature a synergy of bold colours and playful yet profound imagery, reminiscent of pop art’s vibrant palette and incorporation of everyday icons.

Yet, within these seemingly familiar scenes lies a subversive twist, as Banksy employs his street art canvas to challenge societal norms and power structures. Just as pop artists employed consumer culture to convey deeper messages, Banksy harnesses the visual language of both graffiti and pop art to deliver his poignant commentaries on politics, society, and human nature.

In this way, Banksy’s creations stand as a testament to the enduring connection between graffiti’s rebellious spirit and pop art’s cultural critique, reflecting a continuum of creativity that captivates, questions, and ultimately transcends artistic boundaries.

Banksy-style graffiti art

5 Key Similarities Between the Styles of Graffiti art and Pop Art

Below are five key similarities between the styles of Graffiti Art and Pop Art:

Bold Use of Colour

Both Graffiti Art and Pop Art are characterised by their bold and vibrant use of colour. Graffiti artists often use striking colours to make their tags and pieces stand out in urban environments, while Pop Art artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein embraced vivid and eye-catching colours to capture the essence of popular culture.

Learn more about how and why pop art utilised a bold colour palette in its style here.

Incorporation of Everyday Objects

Both styles incorporate everyday objects and symbols into their work. Graffiti artists may incorporate everyday urban elements like street signs, while Pop Art artists celebrated and elevated ordinary consumer products like soup cans and comic book imagery.

Appropriation and Remixing

Both styles involve appropriation and remixing of existing imagery. Graffiti artists often rework letters and symbols to create their unique tags and styles, while Pop Art artists appropriated imagery from advertisements and consumer culture to create new artistic contexts.

Challenge to Traditional Artistic Norms

Both styles challenged traditional artistic norms in their respective periods. Graffiti art defied conventional notions of art by utilising public spaces, while Pop Art challenged the hierarchy of high art by incorporating low culture and mass-produced imagery.

Reflection of Cultural Significance

Both Graffiti Art and Pop Art reflect the cultural significance of their times. Graffiti art often carries social and political messages relevant to the urban environments it adorns, while Pop Art responded to the consumer-driven culture of the post-war era, critiquing and celebrating aspects of mass media and popular culture.

These shared elements highlight the interconnectedness of Graffiti Art and Pop Art, showcasing how they both challenged artistic conventions, engaged with the contemporary world, and left an indelible mark on the trajectory of art history.

Key Differences Between the Pop Art and Graffiti Art Styles and Movements

Although these two distinct art styles share many overlapping traits, there are also several ways in which these artistic approaches diverge. Here are three key differences between the Pop Art and Graffiti Art styles and movements:

Context and Environment

· Pop Art: Pop Art primarily emerged in the mid-20th century as a reaction to the consumer culture of the post-war era. It was often displayed in galleries and museums, emphasising its connection to the world of high art.

· Graffiti Art: Graffiti Art originated in the urban environments of the 1960s and 70s, often as an act of rebellion or self-expression. It was created in public spaces such as streets, subway cars, and abandoned buildings, blurring the boundaries between art and the everyday environment.

Medium and Canvas

· Pop Art: Pop Art often utilised traditional artistic mediums such as painting, printmaking, and sculpture. The canvas was typically traditional, like canvases, panels, and other artistic surfaces.

· Graffiti Art: Graffiti artists predominantly used spray paint, markers, and stencils to create their works. Their canvas extended beyond conventional mediums to encompass urban surfaces, transforming streets and walls into dynamic artistic expressions.

Message and Expression

· Pop Art: Pop Art often engaged with themes of consumerism, mass media, and popular culture, both celebrating and critiquing these aspects of society. It aimed to elevate ordinary objects and icons to the realm of high art.

· Graffiti Art: Graffiti Art, especially during its early stages, was more focused on personal expression, territorial marking, and the subversion of authority. It evolved to include a broader range of messages, from personal statements to social and political commentary, often reflecting the environment in which it was created.

These differences highlight how Pop Art and Graffiti Art, while sharing some commonalities, emerged from distinct contexts, utilised different mediums and canvases, and carried varying messages within their respective cultural landscapes.

Andy Warhol Pop Art
Andy Warhol’s Pop Art (above) often featured a raw, graffiti-type element to it


In the canvas of artistic evolution, the synergy between graffiti art and pop art emerges as a remarkable narrative of rebellion, innovation, and dialogue. Graffiti’s rebellion mirrored the audaciousness of pop art, paving the way for these two art styles to combine and shape many of our the vibrant streetscapes of today.

Bold colours, symbols, and accessible themes intertwine these genres, creating a visual tapestry that spans both the mundane and the magnificent.

As you next wander through the city streets in your hometown or somewhere new you are exploring and spot areas of vibrant urban art, see if you can spot the intertwining influences of both graffiti and pop art.

The popularity of street and urban art has been on the rise in recent years – read my related blog post on ‘The Rise of Street Art: Graffiti and Pop Art’s Influence’ here.

Are you a fan of graffiti or urban art? Can you spot the pop art influences in your favourite works of graffiti art?

Explore the rest of my blog section about the subject of Pop Art, here.

My full range of Jackson Pollock-inspired acrylic paintings can be viewed at – the originals and prints of these are available to purchase, with worldwide delivery. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibiting his pop art, Jackson Pollock-inspired music paintings and prints at The Other Art Fair London, October 2021 | By Kerwin
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