William Wilson, art critic was 78

William Wilson was a Los Angeles Times art critic from 1965 until he retired in 1998, and the chief critic for 20 of those years. He died Saturday, reportedly in his sleep at a Los Angeles care facility from Alzheimer's disease. From Mike Boehm's obituary in the Times:

He was a dapper dresser, sometimes favoring velvet jackets, and himself a creator who made films and began sculpting in bronze after asking noted Los Angeles sculptor Robert Graham to give him a studio demonstration.

Wilson befriended artists such as Graham, Richard Diebenkorn and Peter Alexander while probing for feature story quotes from the Andy Warhols of the world, and charting the rise of the Los Angeles art scene beginning in February 1965, the month before the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened.

At Polytechnic High School, then in downtown Los Angeles, the smallish, wiry Wilson later recalled, he used his drawing ability to turn potential threats into friends. "It was a very rough neighborhood ... but he'd draw indelible ink tattoos on their arms and everybody admired him," Leslie said....

He earned a degree in design at UCLA in 1963 and continued with graduate studies in art history. Meanwhile, he supported himself as an advertising designer and illustrator, and began to contribute pieces to Art Forum magazine.

Henry Seldis, then the Los Angeles Times' art critic, liked his writing, and invited him to contribute to the newspaper in early 1965.

Wilson became the lead art critic when Seldis died in 1978, Boehm says. Nice tag line at the end of the piece. He had no immediate survivors.

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