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When an artist feels compelled to incorporate words and poetry into many of his artworks, we get a sense that he may have taken up the wrong profession. This feeling of being unsettled in his art is something that comes up again and again with the career of the left-wing 20th-century American artist Ben Shahn, whose work is now on show at the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama.

Throughout his career Shahn tried his hand at various forms of artistic media, including lithography, gouache, ink drawings, watercolor, photography, printed posters, publicly funded murals, and book and magazine illustrations. His themes ranged from caricature and social and political commentary to abstraction and artworks that expressed his Jewish cultural and religious background.

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