14 Year Old Tex Hammond Returns to L.A. Art Show—And He’s Still Its Youngest Exhibitor

”At about 10 years old, I did my first portrait of my mom sitting in the LACMA lounge area,” the artist tells LA Mag

January marked the return of the Los Angeles Art Show, with Jan. 19 opening night festivities produced and directed by Kassandra Voyagis. This was Voyagis’ second time at the helm, following the success of her first L.A. Art Show in July 2021.

In the furthest corner of the show’s sprawling, maze-like arrangement, Tex Hammond, age 14, occupies a small booth characterized by a school chair turned on its side and modern abstract portraits on an array of surfaces. He returns to the show—retaining his notoriety as the youngest artist to be featured—for a second consecutive time. This year, he features an exhibit titled Major Minor, which is a commentary on the presence distance learning has had on his youthful life.

Los Angeles caught up with Tex for a chat about how his life—and art—have been doing since his debut outing at the last L.A. Art show.

Los Angeles contributor Julius Miller: Let’s start off simple. At what age did you begin creating art?

TH At about ten years old, I did my first portrait of my mom sitting in the LACMA lounge area and eating some pizza. I posted it to my Instagram—that was my first post and you can still see it.

JM Did it do well?

TH Yeah and my first self-portrait was my Instagram profile picture—which I have never changed once—I did that when I was ten.

JM I did some very rough sketch self-portraits from a very early age. I think everyone wants to explore self-portraits; it’s a great way to start because whose face do you know better than your own, right?

Hammond working on a sketch. (Photo by Julius Miller)

TH Yeah, absolutely.

JM So, you’re from Glendale, but you’re living in Pasadena?

TH I’m from Glendale, I was born at Cedars-Sinai Hospital but I live mostly in Pasadena with my dad…never mind, I’m from Pasadena. I’ve just been jumping around houses all my life, so it’s just been crazy.

JM I feel that; my dad was military so we moved all around, my parents got divorced.

TH: Same.

JM It’s a pain. So, what was it like growing up as an artist in Pasadena?

TH Well, I didn’t look at much of the art in Pasadena; my mom and I would just go on little drive-around dates sometimes. I would just draw in the car and we would bring my sketchbook and all my pens out. We would just go to different art museums all day and also look at all the street art. I think that’s how I really got interested in it all; I would start feeling a weight off my shoulders when I would do a piece that meant something to me and I would be glad I expressed it.

JM That’s incredible. I had a little follow-up question: what was the first piece of art that you saw that had an impact on you?

TH I think it was Guernica by Picasso. It has a really deep meaning behind it and I just thought it was beautiful, man. All the different geometric shapes were just kind of unbelievable—I feel like I saw a lot of inspiration from it. Also, the Basquiat piece, Eyes and Eggs. I’ve been to The Broad a million times and I’ve seen a lot of good art from there.

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Eyes and Eggs. (Images by Wikimedia and The Broad)

JM What is the dynamic like at school? I wanted to go back to that. Are they aware of what you’re doing?

TH I’ve made it more public on my personal Instagram with my friends on it and they’re all aware of it now after the [LA Times] article that was written about me. I think my teachers are kind of becoming more aware of it but they’re just doing their job. But, having to go to class and do all this homework frustrates me sometimes—I just want to graduate, that’s all I’m really looking at.

JM We talked a little bit the other night about some of the music you listen to when you’re making art. Tell me more about that.

TH I don’t think a lot of people would like it. I think it’s very chaotic and uses a lot of sound effects. It’s kind of just like tripping on something; that’s all I can describe it as for when you’re listening to it. But I think that’s what kind of fuels all the crazy lines and all the deep meanings behind my paintings.

JM We spoke a bit about what art has impacted you, but are there any artists that you draw inspiration from?

TH I used to draw a lot of inspiration from Basquiat and Picasso, and I used to look at their art for two hours before I would paint. But I don’t really do that anymore, I think I’ve kind of found my own path a little more. I’ve been drawing more inspiration from music.

JM Was your intention to always show your art like this—in a public sphere?

TH Surprisingly, no! I did my first art show at this school called TREE Academy in West Hollywood; it was kind of a little thing, a lot of people showed up and I was like “Oh my gosh, this is amazing”. But I think that when I had my drive-through show and people actually began to buy my pieces—when people really started to enjoy my art, and not just family-friends—it became more real for me and I was like “Hey, I’m starting to enjoy this a lot more; this is becoming my life”.

JM Is there a specific method you have when creating your art?

TH When I make my art, I feel like I don’t really have control over what I draw. Sometimes I feel like I’m not even controlling my hands. I feel like sometimes I can be stuck in a trance when I get really into a piece. It seems that someone could be talking to me and I would completely tune them out.

JM What hour of the day do you prefer to work?

TH Nighttime—extremely early morning or at night. Like, I have stayed up all night working on a piece. It’s nice when you’ve done what needed to do and you can just lay on the bed and be stupid. My studio is a mess, it’s a mess.

JM So, you have more of a disorganized approach?

TH Oh yeah, I don’t want it to be organized at all. I want it to be messy and crazy.

JM Do you channel that kind of chaos into your work?

TH Yes, 100 percent. I love the amount of chaos in my work, I think it’s kind of mysterious to people how they can’t make out what they’re seeing. Like sure it has a meaning, but it’s personal.

JM Time for the more run-of-the-mill questions; last show you were recognized as the youngest artist to ever be on display at the LA Art Show, how does it feel to be back?

TH It feels amazing, dude. And now it’s even more different because last time I don’t think my pieces were nearly as good as this. Last year I was happy with what I was showing, but I feel like I am way more satisfied with what I am showing now since my style has changed a lot. I am planning on coming back next year.

JM How do you feel the pandemic has affected your life?

TH Ugh, it’s been a lot. I mean I am lucky to have a family with the money to support me and keep us from not going under and all, but it was rough, man. This whole show is about distance learning and not being able to see my friends, having to balance school, and not being able to go out was hard. Even from May, June 2021, I have changed so much—I am not the same person at all. Things have gotten slower but through quarantine, I was just going through a phase every other month; now I feel like I am more comfortable with who I am.

JM Which is good, I guess it’s all growth in a way. How did it affect your work?

TH It got a little bit darker. You can kind of see where my head can be and where my mind is by looking at my works. If you see a really colorful piece, I was probably in a really good mood when I drew that. I mean, the other stuff doesn’t mean I’m always sad, but I was clearly having a tough time when I made Piece #16.

Hammond’s Piece #16. (Photo by Zack Boorstein)

JM Well I believe that wraps it up, thank you, Tex.

TH: Of course, thanks for a great interview.