We are living in the wake of economic ruin on the largest possible scale, trying to untangle for ourselves how it is that we got here and where we’re going next. The people we trusted with our money robbed us stupid. And the people we trusted to govern in our names first let this happen and then allowed those responsible to get away with it. Fiscal responsibility is a hot-button issue today, but the public’s memory is short. This has all happened before, the laws have not been fixed, human nature has not been magically cured, and all of this will happen again. ACME Artists’ upcoming show, Guys and Dogs, brainchild of artists Dylan Atkinson and Joseph Close, is an exploration of the last vestiges of loyalty in a civilization as morally bankrupt as it is financially bankrupt. “We’ve had a hell of a winter. It’s been tough,” said Close. “And we were thinking, ‘What’s the most loyal thing in the world?’” With this question in mind, Atkinson and Close became cognizant of the sheer volume of images—in the media, by the side of the road on their way to work—of the homeless and their dogs. Gnarled faces. Men who barely eat sharing what they have with their only companions. Wayward travelers, forever lost, bound together by something so heartbreakingly human there are no words to describe it. The images are so prevalent, they often go unnoticed until you really look. Atkinson and Close absorbed these images, began incorporating them into their work, and these are the origins of Guys and Dogs. “A dog will never fuck you over,” said Close. And now more than ever, that’s a rare commodity. “For me,” said Atkinson, “it was more about how amazing it was that the dogs didn’t even know they were homeless.” We envy the success of others and it reaffirms the belief that there may be success in store for us. In the meantime, other peoples’ suffering often makes us feel better about our own lot. This blunt interpretation of capitalism leaves little room for empathy, one of the defining differences between man and animals. There’s something about this idea—and the Guys and Dogs show itself—that seems to beg the question; if empathy is so malnourished in our daily lives that the only people who genuinely have our best interests at heart are dogs, what have we become? “We generally try to define shows pretty loosely,” explains Atkinson. In addition to the works of Atkinson and Close, other artists will be contributing to the show, imbuing the Guys and Dogs premise with their own perspective via a wide array of both 2-D and 3-D mediums. Mostly paintings, but also sculptures, ceramics, and found art. The other artists were given only the loosest of guidelines. “No dog porn,” said Holly Atkinson, Dylan Atkinson’s wife, fellow artist, and business partner. “No dogs in costumes,” said Close. “There’s not going to be any cute puppies.” “I do have a cute puppy,” said Dylan Atkinson on one of his works. “Sort of. A cute puppy gnawing on a guy’s leg.” “[These are] dogs at work. Dogs that are tough,” Close went on to say. “Dogs that have been through the shit.” The economy hit the shit and shit years have followed. During times such as these, an interesting juxtaposition to make is how the same two human qualities that could either have avoided an imploded economy—empathy—or could now pull us through—creative thinking—are two of the first to be Darwinized off the map in the name of just getting through the day. Just as dogs are loyal to those hit hardest by a belly-up economy, artists require patronage even in good times. These times being some of the worst of the modern era, when what they do couldn’t be more critical and there couldn’t be less demand, Guys and Dogs is a celebration of those few remaining glimmers of hope; those hungry for something decent amid a society that will always have its boot on the throat of those who value something more than base survival.