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Cynicism is so 1990. sincerity is back in vogue.

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If art reflects society, Americans appear to be embracing a new motif that has this as its signature theme: "Sincerely Yours."

From popular music and TV to Hollywood movies and fine art, the importance of being earnest - last seen so definitively in America during Norman Rockwell's era - is back in vogue, particularly among the young. In music, it's heard in the heartfelt tunes of the band Coldplay and Texas chanteuse Norah Jones. On TV, dramas such as NBC's "American Dreams" celebrate wholesome family values. Hollywood's "Legally Blonde 2" continues the "bright makes right" story of pretty-in-pink Elle Woods, who actually says, "I'm the luckiest girl in the world!" Even in the art world, the public is flocking to shows in which beauty and cheeriness take precedence over the oh-so-'90s ironic or shocking.

At the "Matisse Picasso" retrospective in New York, curators have noted that the colorful, cheerful Matisse has drawn far more visitors than Picasso. And in Los Angeles, "Modigliani & the Artists of Montparnasse" showcases the passionate, bohemian context of the 20th-century artist and the sheer beauty of his work.

"This [early 20th-century period] is very rich. It's also inherently optimistic and sincere," says Kenneth Wayne, curator at the Albright-Knox Gallery who organized the Modigliani show, now at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Matisse and Modigliani "are visually beautiful and fun to look at," says Carol Eliel, curator of modern and contemporary art at LAMCA.

"This is what people want to look at now." This stands in stark contrast to such shows as 1999's "Sensation" exhibit, which included excrement and dissected animals.

Much has been written about the death of irony in the arts following 9/11, but now the pundits who stir the tea leaves of culture see the sincerity is what's replacing it.


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