Per Kleiva (1933-2017) was educated at the National Academy of Art in Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and the Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. Kleiva masters with a variety of media but is most celebrated for his paintings and works of woodcut. Inspired by Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, Kleiva became the most prominent component in the trend of pop art in Norway in the 1960s.
Kleiva was amongst the artists who took the pop culture in an explicitly political direction, as opposed to American colleagues such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. His works frequently had strong political messages condemning global issues as USA warfare in Vietnam, and praising communism in China. Still today, Kleiva’s works communicate central issues in society and human nature. He makes the viewer contemplate our actions. Without giving answers, he pokes at unpleasant subjects and makes us reflect on infected worldly issues.
Kleiva cofounded the Norwegian artist group GRAS, which worked with prints and focused on socio-political subjects. Members of the group, Anders Kjær, Willibald Storn, Victor Lind, Morten Krogh and Kleiva, each had their own specific expressions and styles, however all had a basis in American Pop Art. GRAS provided opportunities and gave good print quality in large quantities, which became a tool for mass production.
His work “American Butterflies” from 1971, is perhaps his most famous work. The silk printed piece has gained iconic status in Norwegian art history. With its simple, symbolic and figurative elements, the image has a clear message in its time, as a critique of USA in the Vietnam war. The print shows US helicopters over burning Vietnamese soil, but transparent butterfly wings replace their propellers. His sympathy for humankind and revolt against repression is his main subject throughout his artistry, and the utopian message in “American Butterflies” stands as an iconic piece.
Kleiva´s works are represented in public collections such as: Museum of Contemporary Art, Norway, Oslo Municipal Art Collection, Aaros Museum of Art (Denmark), The Gulbenkian Foundation (Portugal), the National Museums of Warzava, Worclaw and Pozan (Poland), The Archive Museum of Lund (Sweden) and the collection of Equinor.