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

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It creates an instantly iconic selfie spot on Independence Mall.

Barry Halkin/Weitzman Museum

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

Titled “OY/YO,” the artwork by artist Deborah Kass is installed Thursday outside the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall in Old Town.

From this vantage point, the sculpture shouts a perfect Philadelphia welcome to tourists lining up to see the Liberty Bell: “Yo!” It also embodies independence as a Spanish first person pronoun. Seen from the other side, however, it has an equally appropriate message for our times: “Oy”.

The intentional contrast has made the work famous since Kass premiered it in New York half a decade ago.

“I created OY/YO with the American promise of equality and fairness in mind and our responsibilities to make the country a better place for all,” the artist’s statement reads. “With hatred and division on the rise, there is an urgent need 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’s degree in painting comes from Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh.

His sculpture will be on 5th and Market streets for at least the next year. To inspire you to see him in person, here is a list of 10 things to know about “OY/YO”.

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