Sports Nuts 

Oakland artist Joseph Murdach's show finds the link between sports events and street violence: the fans

Joseph Murdach was strangely fascinated as he watched televised images of disturbances on Oakland streets involving Raiders fans in January 2003 -- once when the team won the AFC Championship, then again when they lost the Super Bowl. "They broke a lot of store windows," he remembers, "and spilled paint on the street. It was an interesting phenomenon to me. It said something about sports and violence and their psychological effect on the brain." He soon started trolling the Internet for images of sports-related mayhem, and found plenty. Then he began to paint and draw. The result is Visions of the Competitive Apocalypse, Murdach's tongue-in-cheek title for his haunting, socially conscious one-man art show, which opens Thursday at Sun Gallery in Hayward (1015 E St., 510-581-4050).

As the 31-year-old Oakland artist (he works construction as a day job) puts it in his program notes, the provocative pieces portray "glimpses of events that question the connection between the competitive spirit and unchecked violence" -- images of riot police, unruly European soccer crowds, and the baseball fans who attacked a coach on the field at a Chicago White Sox game, in addition to ghostly nighttime paintings of burning cars in Oakland. Murdach, who excelled at skateboarding while growing up in Hayward and follows basketball now, insists he's not limiting his social commentary to America, but the suggestion remains that violence is as American as baseball, apple pie, and Hummer. "It took me a while to tell myself it was okay to do all this," he says. "I have a background of social awareness. It's a way of questioning these events, and why they happen."

Murdach expects to display ten to twelve pieces at Sun Gallery. Carfire 1 is a painted panel, and there are canvases, cutouts on wood, and other installed pieces -- with more to come. The times being what they are, he has enough material to go on indefinitely. Says Murdach: "I'm not really done with this series, although I have other ideas for shows." There's a reception at the gallery, Saturday, June 19, 6 to 9 p.m. For more info, visit JosephMurdach.com

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