Olympic is a screen print in colours from 1982 by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Sporting greatness is a constantly revisited theme in the Basquiat oeuvre, present in works such as Boxer Rebellion, Cassius Clay and St. Joe Louis Surrounded by Snakes, yet most of the elements within Olympic appear unrelated to the sporting theme of its title. As a whole, the work points to the erasure and stereotyping of Black identities in American society.
A sinister canine figure lurks at the top right of the image, humanised with a bowler hat, next to text reading ‘Walt Disney’, suggestive of the Hollywood thematics of works such as Hollywood Africans. References to soap abound, as well as drawings of soap bars which brush up against references to cockroaches, suggesting a conflict between a restless underworld and a conflicting, decontaminating force.
Various layers of paint in contrasting tones compete against each other, indicating a canvas that was reworked over time. A singular ‘S’ is repeated across the image in an upturned triangle, most likely a reference to SAMO, the graffiti duo to which Basquiat belonged before his move into the gallery world.