John Himmelfarb is known for his idiosyncratic, yet modernist-based work across many media. His work is described by critics and curators as chaotically complex and tightly constructed.
He often employs energetic, gestural line, dense patterns of accumulated shapes, and fluid movement between figuration and abstraction, using strategies of concealment and revelation to create a sense of meaning that is both playful and elusive. His work is also unified by "a circulating library" of motifs and organizing structures, such as geographic and urban mapping, abstracted natural and industrial forms, and language systems
John’s fascination with language dates to his early Harvard days when he invented his own pictorial alphabet. In the 1990s he began two series representing his deepest exploration of language, his remarkably varied “Icons” and “Puzzles.” Utilizing hieroglyphs and characters derived from Neolithic and religious symbols, ancient earth drawings as well as his own invented languages of pictograms, John created compositions resembling sacred scrolls, tablets, fragments of temple facades and everyday documents. In 2003, John began translating “Icons” into three dimensions, fashioning small-scale cast bronze, iron and aluminum sculptures from his pictograms.
“Trucks” (2004-) includes drawings, prints, and sculpture employing ceramics, wood, cast iron, steel and full-size drivable assemblages incorporating actual trucks, that critics have described collectively as whimsical, formally inventive.