New OY / YO sculpture in Philadelphia: 10 things to know

It creates an instantly iconic selfie spot at Independence Mall.

Reproduction of the OY / YO sculpture in front of Wetizman on 5th and Market

Barry Halkin / Weitzman Museum

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Philadelphia has a new iconic sculpture made of giant letters. Like most art, it has several meanings – but this one literally changes depending on how you look at it.

Entitled “OY / YO,” the work will be installed by artist Deborah Kass on Thursday outside the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History at the Independence Mall in Old City.

From that vantage point, the sculpture shouts a perfect Philly welcome to tourists queuing to see the Liberty Bell: “Yo!” It also embodies independence as the Spanish first-person pronoun. Seen from the other side, however, it has an equally appropriate message for our time: “Oops.”

The deliberate contrast has made the artwork famous since Kass first created it in New York City half a decade ago.

“I created OY / YO with the American promise of equality and justice in mind and our responsibility to make the country a better place for all,” the artist said in a statement. “With hatred and division now rising, it’s urgent to see our commonalities, what we share and what brings us together.”

Kass is originally from San Antonio, Texas, and lives in Brooklyn, but she has a connection to Pennsylvania: her master of painting comes from Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh.

Her sculpture will be on 5th and Market streets at least next year. As an incentive to go and see it in person, here is a list of 10 things to know about “OY / YO.”

  1. It is large: 8 feet high, 16 feet wide and 5 feet deep
  2. It is made of aluminum, painted “Lamborghini” yellow
  3. Kass was inspired by Ed Ruscha’s word painting “OOF” (it hangs in MoMA)
  4. She originally created “OY / YO” as a painting before turning it into a sculpture
  5. Like the LOVE sculpture, there is more than one – Philly’s will be the third
  6. The first “OY / YO” was installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2015 and was then moved to outside the Brooklyn Museum
  7. That edition was recently partially wrapped in blue, as an expression of support for the Ukrainian people
  8. Another was installed outside Stanford University’s Cantor Art Center in 2019
  9. Kass has also made other versions – some that are smaller in 3D and others that are large but flat, like the one on a wall in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards
  10. The Philly sculpture has reportedly already been added as a stop on Old City tour buses

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