In the spring of 2009, he found himself at South Miami Hospital with a heart infection caused by a dirty needle. Laid up with a potentially fatal condition, Farooq began keeping a diary in which he scribbled plans for building an airplane. After he was released from the hospital, he moved to Mississippi to enroll in the rehab program and soon began making the cardboard weapons that would become his trademark.

When he returned from Mississippi, he contacted Miami artist Typoe, one of the founders of Primary Projects, who was bowled over by Farooq's sculptures and got him into a group show called "Champion." At the exhibit, Farooq displayed a full-scale hand-crafted cardboard rendition of a 1930s DShK Soviet heavy machine gun. Farooq titled the imposing work Countach to honor what he recalls his genesis moment.

"It's a Piedmontese Italian slang expression that roughly translates to 'oh shit,'" the artist says. "As the story goes, workers at the Milan auto show uttered this expression upon first seeing the Lamborghini that would eventually go by that name. It's the same car I drew up in... class that day, and it's what I named the DShK sculpture all those years later because everyone would say 'oh shit' when they saw it."

Asif Farooq (front) and Typoe pack heat.
Asif Farooq (front) and Typoe pack heat.

The show landed Farooq a spot during Art Basel 2012 with Primary Projects, where his exhibit "Asif's Guns" was a pop-up store in Wynwood featuring 300 firearms, ranging from revolvers to rifles, crafted with uncanny precision. The display took 7,000 hours of labor, with Farooq's friends and family chipping in while he toiled away in his mother's garage. His fake guns flew off the shelves, with revolvers commanding $300 and rifles $2,000, each priced the same as the real McCoy, as 40,000 visitors elbowed through the doors.

Today, Farooq is working on several large-scale projects for Primary, including "War Room." Due to be finished this summer, the exhibit will turn the gallery into a Napoleonic-era country gentleman's estate, replete with musket rifles, dueling pistols, and other weapons of the age.

In his modest Kendall studio, Farooq is pursuing his biggest dream. He's quietly building a full-scale Polish MiG-21 fighter jet employing 200,000 parts, including a cockpit that spectators can climb into and retractable landing gear. He expects his supersonic opus to debut in early 2015.

"Anything worth having is worth working hard for," Farooq says. "One thing I learned at COPAC and in the years after is restraint. [In 2013] I could have made more money with my art than I have ever earned, but I'm glad my gallery directors are intelligent enough to allow me to develop and have been so supportive of the work."

Farooq has been inundated with invitations to show his work outside Miami and was asked to lecture on art at the University of Arkansas next spring. All it takes are the memories of Mississippi to remind him that his biggest goal is one that begins every morning, though.

"Right now my main focus is building my airplane," the artist says. "But you can say my real dream is to die clean."

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1 comments
4REALZ
4REALZ

I'd respect the artist if it were actually an original idea, but it's not even quasi original. Creating cardboard guns is a HOBBY shared by many people. Just check out all the YouTube videos from which Farooq LEARNED to make them. While it may be argued that all art is derivative, the so-called artist's blatant biting is hard to swallow...even for Miami. Notice how he never mentions the fact that he learned how to make his "art" from the videos of hobby enthusiasts. When did a hobby shared by mainly adolescent boys become art? Next items on Farooq's list: go-karts and airplanes. 

 
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