The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal

The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal is a 2001 experimental documentary film directed by Matt McCormick.

Emerging from the human psyche and showing characteristics of abstract expressionism, minimalism and Russian constructivism, graffiti removal has secured its place in the history of modern art while being created by artists who are unconscious of their artistic achievements.

It is no coincidence that funding for “anti-graffiti” campaigns often outweighs funding for the arts. Graffiti removal has subverted the common obstacles blocking creative expression and become one of the more intriguing and important art movements of our time. Emerging from the human psyche and showing characteristics of abstract expressionism, minimalism and Russian constructivism, graffiti removal has secured its place in the history of modern art while being created by artists who are unconscious of their artistic achievements.

Narrator: Miranda July
Cinematography, editing, and sound design: Matt McCormick
Graphics: Topher Sinkinson
Written by: Avalon Kalin and Matt McCormick
Directed: Matt McCormick

Hats off to Matt McCormick’s “Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal,” an award-winning film that wryly documents the anti-graffiti campaigns in several northwest cities. Painting over graffiti yields public abstract painting that looks peculiarly modernist and brings to mind Rothko, Motherwell and even Malevich.
Roberta Smith, The New York Times

A hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Matt McCormick’s faux documentary / public information film charts the efforts of civic officials to eradicate the graffiti that blights his hometown of Portland, Oregon. Through the daily overpainting of the graffitists’ tags with successive layers of blocks of slightly off-key colors, Portland’s graffiti-removal teams unwittingly create abstract compositions that bear an uncanny resemblance to Rothkos. McCormick’s sly, subversive, and seductive film deserves a wider audience.
Matthew Higgs, Art Forum

Matt McCormick’s mock-doc The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, narrated by fellow Portland artist Miranda July, is one of the finest shorts of any kind I’ve seen in a long time. Much of the film presents 16 mm and digital shots of gray color field-like paintings done by city workers to cover tagging. Mixing documentation of real graffiti removal practices by the city of Portland with theories that the removers are “collaborating” with graffiti artists to create unconsciously-motivated “collaborative works of art,” McCormick crafts an argument so elegant, with achingly beautiful cold-color visuals floating in a warm-bath electronic score, that it’s hard not to be seduced.
Ed Halter, The New York Press

The Subconcsious Art of Graffiti Removal
The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal by Matt McCormick


DVDs of “The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal” are available for purchase through Peripheral Produce