What Manner of Person Art Thou?

Hammer Projects: Erin Cosgrove

Erin Cosgrove’s epic animation, What Manner of Person Art Thou? (2008), follows Yoder and Troyer, the only survivors of two small Amish-like colonies in the Northwestern U.S., after a series of catastrophes and epidemics. The two set off on a journey to find any remaining relatives and begin dispensing violent justice on the evildoers of contemporary society; each encounter represents one of the seven deadly sins. The striking visuals are inspired by the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. The video is a darkly funny tale of the corruption of modern life and the hazards of morality. Cosgrove lives and works in Los Angeles and this is her first solo museum exhibition.

Organized by Ali Subotnick, curator.

Screening Times

Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat
11:00, 12:10, 1:20, 2:30, 3:40, 4:50, 6:00, 7:10

11:00, 12:10, 1:20, 2:30, 3:40, 4:50, 6:00, 7:10, 8:20

11:00, 12:10, 1:20, 2:30, 3:40


Erin Cosgrove was born in 1969 and lives in Los Angeles. She received her BFA from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in 1996, and her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2001. Cosgrove has had solo exhibitions at the Espace Croisé Centre d’Art Contemporain, Roubaix, France; Carl Berg Gallery, Los Angeles; and Printed Matter Inc., New York. Group exhibitions of her work include the COLA Fellowship Exhibition, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; City Beat: Internet Video Exhibition, Brooklyn Museum; and Los Angeles Art Now, Galleri S.E. International Contemporary Art, Bergen, Norway. In 2008 she received the Creative Capital Film and Video Grant and the Center for Cultural Innovation Investing in Artists Grant, and in 2004 she was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2003 Sundance Channel’s TVLab produced her seven-minute animation and live-action video, A Heart Lies Beneath, and that year her novel, The Baader-Meinhof Affair, was published by Printed Matter, Inc., New York.

Blood and Irony

By Julian Gough

I yearn for sex, and food, and status, yet when I get all these things, I want more. There must be some greater thing that would satisfy all yearning forever...

People have come up with many ideas to satisfy this human ache. Most have been called religions and involve stories designed to make you feel better (you are not a serf, you are the beloved son of God).

Religious stories have grown less effective as the advancing tide of science has washed away their foundations. Yet the stories science tells don’t satisfy our needs. So the various arts—once humble servants of religion—have been promoted. Art museums are the cathedrals of our time. Neoconceptualism has taken over the role of Jesuitical Catholicism: intricate, elitist, conceptual, and aping the intellectual rigor of science without actually achieving it.

But the masses never cared for ideas, concepts. The masses went to mass for a regular, often violent story that ultimately reassured. That need for a regular, weekly comforting fable of redemption is met today by the popular art forms: romance novels, soap operas, Oprah, cartoons. That transition, from religion to secular modernity, opens up a huge cultural space. This is the space in which Erin Cosgrove operates. And with What Manner of Person Art Thou? (2004–2008), she takes on animation, because the cartoon—pure art, free to do anything at all—most clearly reveals our needs. 

The new art-religion of animation went from revelation, to orthodoxy, to stagnation, to reformation at appropriately cartoon speed. Walt Disney, watching rushes of a live-action movie, once asked casually, “What f-stop was used in that shot?” When told it was 5.6, Disney remarked, “I like that. Enough is in focus, but not too much, it’s just right.” From then on, as Walter Murch says, “every film at Disney Studios had to have the exteriors shot at an f-stop of 5.6. . . . Even the most accidental comment was the word of God.”

Cosgrove, like Warhol and Lichtenstein before her, sees that the vigor of popular art comes from somewhere deep and that high art needs low art’s splendid energy. She also realizes that religious art only appeared to disappear. From Cinderella to The Lion King, Disney gave us the same story of suffering and redemption—of the orphan who turns out to be heir to the throne—again and again. It is the story of Christ.

Julian Gough writes funny and increasingly indescribable novels. He was born in London, raised in Tipperary, educated in Galway, and lives in Berlin. His comic novel Jude: Level 1 was short-listed for the 2008 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction. In April 2007 Gough won the BBC National Short Story Award, for “The Orphan and the Mob” (the prologue to Jude: Level 1). His previous novel, Juno & Juliet, was published in 2001.


Hammer Projects is made possible with major gifts from Susan Bay-Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Additional generous support is provided by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley, the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund, and Fox Entertainment Group’s Arts Development Fee. Gallery brochures are underwritten in part by the Pasadena Art Alliance.