After Always Hungry founder Jeff Zalaznick snatched up Arnie Charnick’s iconic mural Veselkhiarascuro for a cool $4,000, we assumed the wall was finally coming down and Veselka’s long-awaited expansion would commence. Not so — artist Charnick says it won’t happen till December (he also tells us that construction on Veselka Bowery has been hampered by licensing paperwork and won’t commence for another two weeks). So about a week ago, he put up a series of 32-inch by 48-inch panels that comprise a new panorama, Keys to the City. Charnick, who has been Veselka’s house artist since 1982, says the perspective points of certain streets reminded him of the shank of a key, so he photographed some prime examples and spent three months painting gouache on canvas for seven hours a day.
The panels on display at Veselka depict (from left to right) Chinatown, Rockefeller Center, 33rd Street looking up Sixth Avenue, 45th Street looking down Fifth Avenue, and Battery Park City (Charnick is storing the remaining seven panels in his East Village apartment in hopes that none other than Mayor Bloomberg will buy the piece and donate it to a public venue). “What I like when I do these things is to get people to look at the world a little differently,” Charnick told us. “You see a little visual pun.” And if you look closely, you’ll also see photographs of actual pedestrians collaged onto the paintings. Similarly, if you examine the wedding-day portrait of his parents that hangs over a two-top near the entrance, you’ll see a lock of his mother’s hair. He also mixed his parents’ ashes into the paint he used. “Most people dig it,” he told us. “Maybe 1 out of 50 people go, ‘That’s spooky, man.’”