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(Etienne Frossard ©Deborah Kass Studio LLC, Courtesy Two Trees Management Co)
(Etienne Frossard ©Deborah Kass Studio LLC, Courtesy Two Trees Management Co)
(Etienne Frossard ©Deborah Kass Studio LLC, Courtesy Two Trees Management Co)

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Does This Brooklyn Sculpture Say ‘Oy’?

…or is it saying ‘Yo’?

smithsonian.com

It's said there are two sides to every story. That's the case for an ambitious and controversial piece of art in New York—a sculpture that appears to say "Oy" when you're looking at Manhattan and "Yo" when you're looking at Brooklyn.

The sculpture is the brainchild of artist Deborah Kass and was placed in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Monday, reports Jonah Bromwich for The New York Times. An homage to a 1962 painting by Edward Ruscha that proclaims "OOF," the sculpture is roughly eight feet high by 17-and-a-half feet long and consists of two yellow aluminum letters: "Y" and "O."

Kass attracted attention with two similar paintings that she created in 2009 and 2010. On her website, she describes them as "paintings for feel bad times," and they're part of a series of brightly-colored, often typographic paintings, which feature phrases such "you made me love you" and "enough already." Now, the larger-than-life sculptural letters can be seen all the way across the East River.

In a release about the sculpture, the Brooklyn Bridge Park calls it a piece of art that "walk[s] the line between respectful homage and brazen appropriation." The idea draws to mind a 2004 debate about whether the Williamsburg bridge needed to feature a road sign that said "Leaving Brooklyn: Oy vey!" or "Leaving Brooklyn: Fuhgeddaboudit!"

Kass tells Bromwich that, as a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, she wanted to express the area's signature exclamations and explore attitudes about the boroughs. But even as the sculpture raises questions about New York linguistics, it's created a controversy of its own: Does it really say "Oy" or "Yo"? There are, quite literally, two sides to this story.

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