Canadian mail-artist Med Wolf seeks to find final resting place of Neo founder David Zack – mail-art call issued! – send work and information

“David Zack” by BuZ Blur (Courtesy of Ross Priddle’s Bent Spoon)

Med Wolf (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) has issued a mail-art call to honor Neo founder and one of the world’s great mail-artists David Zack.

Most sources indicate David Zack died in 1995, although Med Wolf claims to have been in contact with him as late as 1998. Zack’s final resting place is unknown. Med Wolf is trying to locate Zack’s grave, make it a shrine, and gather mail-artists from all over the world to participate in a ceremony on the site.

Additionally, a full range of rumours and legends concerning David Zack are still in circulation, ranging from contentions that he never existed in the first place to he is still alive. Based on available evidence, the MinXus-Lynxus current position is that David Zack was a real person and it is very likely that he is no longer alive.

The Neoist use of fake and multiple identities makes all this very complicated. Monty Cantsin, for instance, was a fictitious identity used by numerous people. David Zack plausibly could be another similar case, although reliable sources claim to have known David Zack. It is possible that David Zack has been active in mail-art during the last 20 years using other identities that are now well-established.

Zack, along with luminaries such as Blaster Al Ackerman and John M. Bennett, represent a generation of artists and writers who expanded mail-art beyond Ray Johnson’s circle, contributing significantly to today’s global network and innovations ranging from visual poetry to performance art.

Information about David’s Zack’s life, work, and demise are included in Ruud Janssen’s (Netherlands) classic interview with Blaster Al Ackerman (Maryland, USA).

Here is an excerpt from the interview about Zack:

Ruud Janssen:   Well, the things you write down now reveal already a part of the 14SM [14 Secret Masters of the World].  What ever happened to Dave Zack?

Answer on 5-1-1997

Al Ackerman:   Dave Zack, now, that glittering guy.  There are times when I think he was the most wayward-tragic-doomed figure I ever met, and other times when I think of him I can’t stop grinning.  (Humm, something not quite right about that last sentence, but hopefully you get my drift.)

“It doesn’t make it if my postman doesn’t get it,” Zack would mutter, shuffling toward the mailbox, his arms overflowing with envelopes, each day’s astonishing, and astonishingly arted, output.

“This is this,” and as he moved, things would drop from his beard and shaggy jacket: cookies crumbs, flakes of gold glitter, twigs and old leaves. When it came to grooming he was a sort of latter-day Swamp Thing.

There are mail artists, quite a few, maybe the majority, who manage to practice their art and in the same breath are able to coexist peacefully and even successfully with the workaday world: they pay their bills and hold down jobs and have families, and never jail, and this and that.  Not so Zack.  Zack was a law unto himself.  He was what the scifi people mean when they use the term “mad genius,”and what Aesop had in mind when he penned that cautionary fable about the grasshopper who got punished terribly for dicking around on his fiddle when winter was fast approaching.  Zack was brilliant, madding and great.  Difficult, visionary and cracked.  I would go over to his house in the late 70’s, in Portland, and find him busy as a bee collaging phone and utility bills.  As I later explained it in an article, “In those days Zack knew he would never be able to pay all the bills that came to the house, so rather than show any favoritism or partiality he made it a practice to pay none of them, equally.  Rather, he would take the various gas and water and electric bills (also the subpoenas and summonses — never any lack of those) and construct these beautiful 10-foot-high assemblages, which he would then title ‘Tall Carefree Clown #27,’ ‘Tall Carefree Clown #28,’ whatever number it happened to be in the sequence, and these he usually sent out and about as part of his mail art.  It was a quite amazing continuous year-round project….” Or I’d go over and find him busy petitioning officials at the state capitol, pestering them with his different nutty fundings proposals. Or he’d be playing his cello upside down.  Or he’d be writing something for the art mags. 

At the same time he gave the imprimatur to mail art by being one of the first to write about it at length for a major slick-paper journal (Art in America), he was finding time to come over and live for long stretches in my pantry, and in my dreams I can often still hear him in there, munching, munching.  (Like Wimpy in the Popeye strip, Zack’s motto was always, “I would like to invite you for a duck dinner — you bring the duck!”)

In collaboration with Istvan Kantor, he helped dream up the “Monty Cantsin” name and concept, and what later became Neoism.  He was certainly one of the all-time world-class letter writers, right up there with Henry Miller and Fanny Burney.  At some point I gave him the nickname Dave “Oz” — Oz obviously being the only locale that could comfortably accommodate him, Baum’s magic fantasy kingdom where even the animals can talk.  By and large we had a lot of laughs and he seldom failed to make me want to chew the rug and pull my hair out.

In the late 70’s, true to his history of hairbreadth escapes, Zack gave his Portland, Oregon, creditors the slip by moving to Canada.  There he operated a sort of quasi-legal rooming house for drunkard Newfies.  A few years later, he left Canada one jump ahead of the mounties and used the money I grudgingly loaned him to lam down to Mexico.  Ultimately it didn’t make a hell of a lot of difference to the Mexican authorities that, in Zack, they had one of the world’s top idea-man and practitioners of mail art.  The authorities were more interested in the fact that for two or three years he’d been cashing his dead parents’ Social Security checks, which was the routine he’d worked out to support his mail art activities.  They tossed him in the jug (I tend to lie awake thinking of this by the hour because if things had happened a little differently I could have gone the same route myself).  In ’91, after three or four years of who-knows-what-hell, they finally let him out, probably afraid he was going to die on the premises — by then, Zack who had a lifetime history of diabetes was gravely ill, with (among other things) gangrene of the foot.  Somehow he made his way to San Antonio, Texas, and all praise to Patty Blaster who took him in and did what she could for him until what little health he had left failed him.

Last I heard he was in a country rest home or some damn place, stroked out, largely unresponsive.  Not long ago – last week, in fact – I had an E-mail from one of his former girl friends, Judith Conaway, who’d done a lot to help him over the years, saying she’d heard that he’d died in the latter part of ’95. Maybe so.  On the other hand, such was my old pal’s cantankerousness, his boundless power for aggravation that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pop up again.  The way I picture this, I’ll be transporting a heavy piano across a rope bridge in Africa and halfway across the chasm I’ll meet a figure in a gorilla suit who’ll proceed to jump up and down and mess things up outrageously.  That’ll be Zack.

Here is the information Med Wolf posted at the IUOMA (aka Yo Ma):

“Please send “Mail Art” re- is the great mail artist David Zack really in the spirit world… all works will be posted [on Med Wolf’s blog – link below].

Project is ongoing, no fee,no jury, no returns and the theme is “Zack Sightings“….if u know someone who looks like Zack then send me a pic,create a pic, become a pic etc etc…some have said that Zack was a shape-shifter and may still walk among us not in human form but as an animal or bird..send mail to:

Zack Sightings c/o Medwolf

RR 7,Site 715,Comp 62

Saskatoon,Saskatchewan,Canada S7K 1N2

I will send something back…. The David Zack Show opened at The New Gallery (TNG) in Calgary, Alberta,Canada october 10/ 2008, it is a retrospective /commemorative installation of zack’s work mostly focusing on the 70’s and 80’s, the show is based on Istvan Kantor`s archival collection extended with contributions from many other artists, he is still collecting material…a book/catalog will be published after the TNG show therefore it will include details of the installation together with essays and additional information and visuals…”

For more information of David Zack and Med Wolf, make sure to visit:


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. minkrancher
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 01:51:08

    Gosh durn if that Neo gang isnt just as bad as the Fluxus gang bustin up pianos.

    So this David Zack fella, wanted by the law, could be anybody. Could be he has ‘dopted another identity after he dropped outta sight roun ’95.

    Who do we know that we dont know nothin about who they are or where they came from?

    I’ll tell ya.


    G-Man could be David Zack.


  2. minxuslynxus
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 05:08:10

    The Andy Kaufman of mail-art?


  3. minkrancher
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 08:29:23

    You are not facing the very real possibility that David Zack has infiltrated MinXus and that, given his background, he has been involved with the cryptic circles.


  4. cmehrlbennett
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 01:13:49

    We had Al Ackerman here for a week in the Spring, and he pretty much agrees that Zack likely passed away as his ex-girlfriend describes in the mid-90’s. His stories about Zack are kind of like yours, Medwolf, in that having Zack as a house guest pretty much meant your food&beer supply were hit hard – and he was a crazy character. Such characters leave legends that die hard, like Elvis.


  5. minkrancher
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 01:45:55

    Thanks Mehrl, in the “Trust No One” [or believe no one] atmosphere when giants such as David Zack roamed freely on the earth, it was hard to separate truth from fiction, which, I guess, was the whole idea. Now it’s even more confusing. It’s always great to get info from people attached to the scene who can offer some insight.

    And it was due to memories of those days & the impact of people on us named in the blog that MinXus-Lynxus took up the cause to help Medwolf on his quest, especially when we discovered that Medwolf was yet another link to these historic times, especially the happenings in Washington State.

    Strangely, Medwolf has started hinting in the last few days that David Zack is alive. A few days earlier, Zack’s demise seemed a foregone conclusion in Medwolf’s mind. Whatever, it’s been great to get stories from Medwolf, and they match other accounts.

    For M-L, this has been a chance to dig into what is available on David Zack &, with great pleasure, discovering his correspondence novels. Along with the work of Blaster Al, there is an amazing body of literature there (JMB too of course, goes without saying).

    This started as an effort to assist with clarifying a piece of history but now has evolved into a genuine interest in the fate of this enigmatic character.

    Nagging questions remain concerning death records, etc. But we’re not detectives. At one point, it sure appeared that Zack is alive. But another day & you find something that indicates the opposite. In these Big Brother times of being able to find anything about anyone, how is it possible David Zack “stayed off the grid”? Well, he would have had the skills to do it. Things, indeed, seemed to come to a crisis point around Mexico and Texas. There is a lot about the Immortality Clinic that was established – I know, the whole thing is unbelievable. But a few Google searches turn it up – pages & pages with photos. Could someone have constructed the whole thing? I digress…

    Well, MinXus-Lynxus remains dedicated to helping find the truth in any way we can and more important letting people know about the amazing art & writing that has been produced.


  6. minkranch
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 11:50:11

    Medwolf sent along a David Zack note that has been circulated on a fairly wide basis. UK artist Michael Leigh did post the original Zack artwork that accompanied the note at IUOMA. It’s interesting, but if written in the mid-80s – which appears to be the case – how relevant is it? At this point in the M-L investigation – it doesn’t seem very relevant. Right, got the April 1 part, but in 1984 that could have been a reference to anything. For the record, here it is:

    David Zacks “death certificate says nothing..just his name and is dated on april fools day..put that together with this~ Michael Leigh,an artist in the UK got..
    A postcard from Dave Zack from Mexico where he lived at the time. Sent in 1984. On the reverse Zack writes- ” Michael- This is too vital to my Correspondence History to plan out or prefabricate, let alone prevaricate in any way. I have refused to give the Tapia family the cash Christmas gift they demand. They lowered and I still refused. Three times I went to my parents with the Tapias. These lovable and living ancestors of mine smiled lovably and pointed at me. Cesario refused to take Genovera’s last month’s pay, holding out for the Christmas present. I said my festival as a ULC minister is not Christmas, but April 1st. He said he never heard of it. I told him to watch out for it, it’d be better than bullfighting. This isn’t bad, sometimes people get killed.” I find this interesting lol


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