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July 26, 2010
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July 26, 2010, 3:30 pm

West of Rome Infantilizes Los Angeles (Even More)

West of Rome, the Pasadena-based contemporary art nonprofit that Italian dealer Emi Fontana
founded about five years ago, is known for being unconventional. It has no permanent exhibition
space, but rather sponsors site-specific artists’ projects throughout Los Angeles. Fittingly, the events
it organizes tend to have an offbeat edge to them. In Miami last December, during Art Basel Miami
Beach, the organization held a press breakfast at the W Hotel that culminated in artist Michael
Smith, in the guise of his man-child persona Baby Ikki, toddling around the room in a diaper,
sucking on a pacifier and staring down journalists. So, what can one expect from West of Rome’s
performance-art-fest-cum-benefit tonight in Los Angeles? Here are seven reasons you should wish
you were there, in the company of such expected guests as L.A. MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch,
artist Paul McCarthy, and curators Russell Ferguson and Rochelle Steiner:

1. You would be greeted by a dominatrix who goes by the name of Nurse Olive, and her sidekick
Melissa, who is actually the painter (and former Deitch Projects artist) Matt Greene in drag.

2. You would have access to artist Mike Kelley’s baby room, a pad filled with stuffed animals and
toddler clothes for adults, where, if you so desire, your new friend Olive would diaper and powder

3. You would have the opportunity to be reborn, the result of a visualization and meditation session
in the “rebirth room,” hosted by the artist duo known as Crystal Crunch.

4. You could curl up in artist Marnie Weber’s “Furry Room,” where, according to a PR agent
working on the event, “furry creatures will want to touch, hug and interact with you.”

5. You could get a massage.

6. You’d have the rare pleasure of seeing live performances by artists Jim Shaw, Mike Kelley, and
Baby Ikki, who will once again be on the loose among guests.

7. You’ll get to drink cocktails from baby bottles and eat baby food. Sort of. Suzanne Goin,
executive chef at the restaurant Lucque, is creating a menu that mimics Baby Ikki’s maturation
process, starting with pureed delicacies and moving on to the solid stuff.
If any of this sounds the least bit weird to you, get over it. It’s California, man.