The most important artist you probably never heard of lives in Solano Canyon

The New York Times’ T-Magazine blog visited with painter Roger Herman, who helped start the Chinatown art scene and has called Solano Canyon home since 1986.  Herman, described as “the most important artist you’ve never heard of,” and his wife,  photographer Eika Aoshima, live in two adjacent homes in a compound that has served as the artistic center of the neighborhood, which stretches east of Dodger Stadium to Chinatown. Said T-Magazine:

The compound is the site of frequent dinner parties and sits at the center of an emerging Solano Canyon scene: Urs Fischer and Cyril Kuhn share the house down the street; the garden designer Judy Kameon and the artist Erik Otsea have settled across the way; the local art impresarios Miguel Nelson and Sherry Walsh host their semiregular “Secret Restaurant” at their place nearby. And Al Renner, a community garden activist and fixture in L.A.’s slow food scene, tends to his local four-acre farm. “I love it,” Herman says. “It’s like a little village, hidden right in the heart of downtown. And it’s not gentrified yet, thank God.”

Photo by Laurie Avocado/Flickr


  1. So Roger Herman is to blame for ruining New Chinatown’s West Plaza. Most of the original shops are now gone, and most of the shops have lost their original signs. They were replaced with art signs, which just killed the original look of this area. I give credit to the owners who have moved in and kept the original signs up. At least they have some respect for this area history. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce are a bunch of sell outs for letting this happen to our community. I know that they probably allowed it to happen, due to finacial reasons. They may as well re-name Chinatown’s West Plaza.

  2. Eliah, some of those business were shuttered and empty for years, and the rest were all on their way out. What a negative way to look at what could have turned into something really atrocious – can you imagine it being filled with a McDonalds, a Kinko’s, a(nother) CVS/Walgreens, etc? Do you think any of them would have respected the signage that was kept, or the red lanterns that are still there? I appreciate the fact that an art scene moved to downtown, period.

  3. “And it’s not gentrified yet, thank God.”

    One of the great all-time lines. Bespeaks an almost pathological acquaintance with one’s own personal brand of bullsh*t.

    Dios Mio, man.

  4. This article is about Solano Canyon not Chinatown, did I miss something here, Eliah? There are no business in Solano Canyon, its a residential neighborhood.

  5. Roger I was just talking sh*t, venting at the fact that Chinatown’s West Plaza is turning into an art compound, that doesn’t look like it belongs here. Roger is not to blame, and I was JK. @Sandra is right about the shuttered businesses, but atrocious I’m not sure about that. It had the right look & feel to me, maybe because I grew up around here. As far as McD’s, Kinko’s, CVS/Walgreens, etc. I don’t thinks they would consider this area. So if you strip this area of its culture, but leave the red lanterns is it really ok. By the way we are Chinatown, Downtown is south of Cesar Chavez. @John great comment. @Kerr the story is about Solano Canyon, but you must have missed the part at the end that says east of Dodger Stadium to Chinatown. Kerr what do you call Norton Electric. I would call that a business in Solano Canyon, duh. It right at the entrance, by the way.

  6. Victoria_Harding

    We dig Mr. Herman. He and is wife rescued two stray dogs on our street, Bonnie and Clyde – Bonnie had a bum leg. We see him walking his dogs in the morning, nice fellow and a good neighbor. I’m pretty proud that our neighborhood hasn’t gentrified. It’s more the way of Echo Park 15 years ago when artists lived side by side with the people who have had houses here since Chavez Ravine was was an actual neighborhood.

  7. Survival (of a struggling) zone in an urban area needs saviors. I grew up here and visited Chinatown from before I can remember. Many friends I knew from school lived there. They have moved, folks grew old and retired and sold or shuttered businesses. Sad for me to see where Yee Mee Loo, Man Jen Low, Limehouse, Dragon Inn and Chung Mee once stood. Chinatown was in danger of disappearing. I for one am glad the artists arrived.

    Here’s a Chung Mee story for you — btw, it was a great, old time chop suey house, and late at night inhalers, mariachis, cops, postal and RR workers would come in to eat the cheap, tasty food — me and pals drove up and found a huge film shoot in progress. Old cars all around, extras, big, big shoot. I ask a guy, Hey, what’s the movie? He says, “Chinatown.”

    We say, Well, of course.

  8. Its funny how all of a sudden where I grew up has become the center of attention for many. This quiet neighborhood that we have shared with Dodger fans and the Police Academy, has always been a tight community with humble hard working people. I have noticed though in rescent years that “artists” have come in and have made a mark, which they seem to take credit for quite often. I guess its just that people that I have known, many generations, that have never wanted to make much of our little neighborhood has become the talk of newspapers and people fighting over who was here first or why its improved. Its as if some want to walk around with a “S” on their shirt as if they”saved” our community. Its just an opinion I am stating, so please don’t take offense to it..

  9. Christina Velvet Devine

    I am seeking the aging photogrqapher Cyril Kuhn as he took photos in Manhattan thus I need to chat with him if someone can tell me how to locate him please and have him receive my contact info I would be most grateful.
    Sincerely to all
    C Velvet Devine

  10. Mistress Velvet

    Cyril Kuhn I recall when in the 1970’s you had surgery that nearly cost you your life while you worked at Vogue for Paris and later for Vogue in Germany in the 70’s.
    Being as we were great friends we would talk for many hours on the phone when I would give you your strength you would often say. You would visit me many times on the east side of Manhattan NY in the 70’s on business where we would discuss many common interests regarding those you photographed . Contact me asap so we may discuss those priceless days from years gone by. You may call me at on my personal line at 778 919 9421 or email me at this address
    truegypsy.devine2012@gmail.com so we can discuss many mututal interests.
    Christina Wells Devine

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