YO refers both to the Spanish pronoun for “I” and to an urban slang greeting, while OY is a common Yiddish word expressing dismay or annoyance. Kass conceived OY/YO during President Obama’s first term, and it was initially installed during his second term. She notes that the work is a product of our political time.
Deborah Kass is a Brooklyn-based artist who has lived and worked in the borough for more than fifteen years. She focuses on the intersections between identity, pop culture, and art history. Frequently giving her own spin to signature imagery by twentieth-century male artists, Kass created this bold sculpture in the spirit of Ed Ruscha’s word paintings, such as OOF, Milton Glaser’s I Love NY logo, and Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculptures.
The artist’s first monumental sculpture, OY/YO was originally installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park and later in Williamsburg. In Prospect Heights and neighboring Crown Heights, OY/YO takes on new meaning, as it speaks to the longstanding, complex, and ever-evolving social dynamics between Black, Latinx, and Jewish communities in the neighborhood. Its location on the plaza allows broad access, actively greeting and engaging visitors as they walk by, reading as YO from one direction and OY from the other.