The genius of Kansas City-based metal artist Asheer Akram’s Pakistani-inspired cargo truck is that it is both a vehicle for mobile art and a body of artwork in itself.
Asheer Akram and his crew cut a 1952 Chevy pickup in half and mounted the cab on a chassis with a custom-built GMC cargo box on top. The entire truck is painted with ornate designs and outfitted in the fashion of Pakistani trucks with midwestern art references added to create a wholly unique identity.
Akram, born in Oklahoma City, Okla. and a 2007 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, developed the idea two years ago after traveling to his father’s homeland in Pakistan and seeing painted trucks with traditional artwork. “I thought about what I would draw from that experience and started to build small models,” Akram says. “Then, I thought, I should just build a truck.”
He launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $35,000 to get the wheels turning on the project. Additional funding from several philanthropic sources has kept the project in motion.
A custom metal fabricator and artist by trade, Akram applied his talents to create this estimated six-ton behemoth outfitted with reflective red vinyl, a painted steer’s skull, jingling ringlets and painted designs. Working at first in a gravel drive outside of his workshop before moving into a Belger cartage bay in the Crossroads, Akram has worked with a team of painters, fellow artists and fabricators to custom build the glass windshield, decorative elements, steel and aluminum cargo box and other elements. Custom wheels were produced in Los Angeles. Eventually, Akram plans to install an art lab in the cargo box with a mobile printing press that can become a traveling exhibit across the continent.
Akram says, “I want to use the truck as a tool for cultural enrichment.”
The Pakistani cargo truck will be installed near the entrance to the Bloch Building as part of the exhibition, Echoes: Islamic Art and Contemporary Artists, which opens at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on August 31. The 28 works in the exhibition date from the 9th century to the 21st century and come from Islamic cultures across the globe, including contemporary art from international and U.S.-based artists, such as Shirin Neshat, Ahmed Mater, and Rashid Rana. Featured art works include ceramics, textiles, miniature paintings, decorative brass, photographs and video art.