From Jasper Johns:
The art critic Leo Steinberg has recorded another conversation: "I asked [Johns] about the type of numbers and letters he uses - coarse, standardized, unartistic - the type you associate with packing cases and grocery signs.
Q: You nearly always use the same type. Any particular reason?
A: That's how the stencils come.
Q: But if you preferred another typeface, would you think it improper to cut your own stencils?
A: Of course not.
Q: Then you really do like those best?
This answer is so self-evident that I wonder why I asked the question at all; ah, yes - because Johns would not see the obvious distinction between free choice and external necessity. Let me try again:
Q: Do you use these letter types because you like them or because that's how the stencil's come?
A: But that's what I like about them, that they come that way."
A Johnsian conversation may seem frustrating, but the artist is not being difficult. Quite the contrary: he struggles to find the plainest way of talking about a situation. His friend, the composer John Cage, recalled sitting on a porch at Johns' house in South Carolina, with "records filling the air with Rock-n-Roll. I said I couldn't understand what the singer was saying. Johns (laughing): That's because you don't listen."