The Happy man
Reba Maybury
Through Jun82024

In her inaugural solo exhibition at Company Gallery, titled The Happy man, British artist Reba Maybury delves into the intricate relationship between transgressive sexuality and artistic expression.

Within installations, paintings, sculptures, lectures and publications Maybury, also known for her work under the alias Mistress Rebecca, ingeniously intertwines her dual identity as an artist and a political dominatrix to investigate the hidden in plain sight power dynamics of gender, sex and consumption. Central to her exploration is the concept of sexual autonomy and the reimagining of labor relations, aiming to recalibrate the balance of power and renegotiate who does and does not have access to pleasure and adventure. Her approach challenges traditional narratives of female empowerment, extending beyond the realms of male fantasy to encompass a broader critique of societal structures.

In three central artworks on view at Company, Maybury has used submissive men — whose unseen performances fuel her artistic output. Upstairs, the exhibition begins with Used Man (2024) a pile of clothing left by a man who undressed on Maybury’s command. This tableau functions as a stand-in for the ambiguous and somewhat universally invisible persona of the john, distilling the identities of the submissives into the fabric they discard. The resulting installation pivots on the theme of absence, with the subs' exertions only evident when revealed by the dominatrix. Thus, viewers are prompted to contemplate the idea that sex work transcends mere fetishism and cannot simply be commodified for capitalist consumption or detached sensationalism. Instead, it encompasses a realm inhabited by individuals with their own unique agency, experiences, and character which most of the time exists in a world of the ordinary.

Accompanying this piece is Maybury's reinterpretation of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's The Sofa through a series of paint-by-number artworks created by her submissives. The Sofa, originally painted in 1884-1886 and currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, depicts two sex workers in a moment when they are not on display, capturing the tension between the era's craving for extravagance and the boredom imposed on its laborers. With her subs’ adaptations, Maybury contrasts the contemporary utilization of this painting within the realm of recreation and the disregard for the work done “behind the scenes”.

To Maybury the act of spending time with a paint-by-number kit and spending time with a sex worker are both experiences of leisure. Uniquely infused with biographical elements of the sub through the naming of each work, each painting poignantly draws parallels to the broader exchanges of capital within the art world.

Faster than an erection is an installation featured in the gallery’s downstairs space. Through a set of instructions, Maybury directed a submissive man to leave marks of his body only discernible under a series of black lights hung from the ceiling at the height of the average American man’s penis. The impressions left behind serve as evidence of invisible male behavior, whether submissive or not, and how these transactions take place even in the most pedestrian of places. By shifting the focus onto the buyer's role as the worker, the remnants become the domain of the dominatrix. The john is not supposed to be consumed or thought of as entertainment and this is how Maybury presents him to us.

Reba Maybury wrote her first novella, Dining with Humpty Dumpty, in 2017 and in 2021, Faster than an erection was published with MACRO. A second edition of this text is being republished in light of this exhibition. Recent solo shows include From Paris With Love, Treize, Paris (2022) Faster Than An erection, Museum for Preventive Imagination, MACRO, Rome (2021); Moralists at a Costume Party, HFKD, Holstebro (2021) and A-good-individual, LUMA Westbau, Zurich (2019). She has participated in various group exhibitions including those at FRAC, Bordeaux, ICA, London, Eden Eden Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Centre d’art Contemporain, Geneva, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen and Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw. Maybury teaches critical thinking at Central Saint Martins on MA Fashion and at HEAD Geneva as a visiting artist on the MAF WorkMaster. She lives and works between Jutland, Denmark and London, UK.

With thanks to the Danish Arts Foundation and to the supreme Dia Dynasty.

1/8 Installation Views

1/8

Selected Works

Reba Maybury

Used man,

2024

Reba Maybury

Amanda, Retired British Civil Servant, 52, Blackpool,

2024

Reba Maybury

Used man,

2024

Reba Maybury

Francis Bacon, German Junior Art Advisor, Mid-20's, London,

2024

Reba Maybury

Faster than an erection,

2024

Press

May 14 2024

Frieze

What to See Across the Americas in May

May 10 2024

Filthy Dreams

Reba Maybury Turns Eager Submissives Into Her Artistic Tools in “The Happy man”

May 9 2024

Frieze

Reba Maybury Deconstructs the Sexual-Economic Contract

Visit

145 Elizabeth Street
New York, New York 10012

Hours: Tue–Sat, 12–6pm
Company is wheelchair accessible.

Contact

Mailing Address:
356 Broome Street
New York, New York 10013

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+1 646 756 4547
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