Rose Salane, a Queens native, is known for plucking innocuous materials from obscurity to reveal them as repositories for her hometown’s history. One such project, 60 Detected Rings (1991–2021), is currently on view as part of her presentation at Carlos/Ishikawa’s booth at Frieze New York.
It’s a new iteration of an earlier project: In 2019, Salane acquired a lot of 94 rings auctioned by the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. She undertook a three-pronged examination of the rings: a jeweler appraised their size, color, weight, and shape; a biology lab extracted traces of mitochondrial DNA left from the skin the objects encountered; and an intuitive reader probed for spiritual residue from the previous owner.
Salane acquired the rings in 60 Detected Rings from a metal detectorist who unearthed them over decades in Atlantic City’s sands. Again, the artist ferried the rings between a psychic and a lab, the latter of which was asked to conduct a second metal detection of the lot. Salane recorded any changes or abnormalities in the electromagnetic frequency retransmitted by the metal. The rings were then mounted in a frame, each accompanied by excerpts of an investigation into their provenance.
The wall-hung installation is a cool, meditative presentation on the mysterious life cycle of a lost item after it’s stripped of its meaning.
“It was important to put these methodologies, these ways of interpreting truth, together,” Salane told ARTnews. “It’s how we interpret the world on a daily basis, we grapple with science and spirituality. These fields represent different ways we can assign value to an object.”
One rings bears the initial “E” encased in a heart; inside, an inscription reads “PK.” A note from the psychic reads, “This ring is a promise ring. It is showing the people that gave it to each other are no longer together.”
Elsewhere, the results of her trials were inconclusive. Most rings withheld their stories. The phantom owners remained elusive, but that’s not really surprising; how often do we try and fail to understand even the person beside us?
Intimacy is approached sideways here. Viewers instead get a sense of Salane and her collaborators through the meticulousness of their labor which, according to the artist, isn’t over. Maybe curiosity or obsession is prolonging the project, but its impetus was empathy: battered things deserve dignity too.
An elegiac thread runs through Salane’s practice. For her contribution to the Whitney Biennial, 64,000 Attempts at Circulation (2021), Salane has gathered together tokens used as phony bus fare in New York—casino chips, Monopoly money, metal washers. It’s ephemera once fated for the trash that has been returned its significance by a prestigious setting.
Taken together, Salane’s art presents a collection of inaccessible stories. At the hustle and bustle of an art fair, 60 Detected Rings invites viewers to slow down, to pay attention to the minute details of an object’s history, and to consider a city—a container of strangers—as a cosmos of melodramas.