Is this sculpture mocking Brooklyn's historic Jewish community or just saying 'hey'?


Depending on how you literally look at Deborah Kass’s new “monumental sculpture” OY/YO that was recently unveiled in Brooklyn Bridge Park, it’s possible to interpret what’s being said in a couple of different ways.

Chances are that if you know of or have connections to Brooklyn’s historic Jewish community, you’ll recognize “oy” as the shortened oy vey, a Yiddish phrase that roughly translates to “oh, woe (is me.)”

Yo, on the other hand, is many things. It is a weird app. In Spanish, it is the first person nominative pronoun. In English, it can be either a declarative or imperative exclamation that’s commonly used as a greeting.

It’s the sort of “hello” that bros, bruhs, and brahs alike are known for using. “Yo, Deborah,” you might say to Kass. “What’re you getting at with this sculpture?”

According to Kass, the statue is meant to be a symbol of the “brazen appropriation” that’s come to characterize Brooklyn and many other parts of New York City.

Over the past 10 years, New York’s Jewish population has seen dramatic jumps due, in large part, to the thriving Orthodox and Hassidic communities living in Brooklyn. But the Jews aren’t the only people flocking to Williamsburg.

Recent college grads are one of the more visible populations known for migrating to Brooklyn, driving up real estate costs, and displacing many historic residents (who happen to be black and various shades of brown) in the process.

The point of Kass’ sculpture isn’t to make light of the tectonic shifts that are reshaping Brooklyn, but rather to sum them up in one brief, bold statement that changes depending on where you stand in relation to it.

“Just in time for the holidays, three of New York City’s greatest communities come together in peace, love, and OY,” Kass said.

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